Cobb County School District Leads the Conversation to Say Goodbye to End-of-Year Tests, Opts to Pilot a Student-Focused Assessment System with National Potential

Every year, students in Georgia’s public schools lose about a week of educational time taking state-mandated testing. That’s five full days of instructional time that teachers could use to cover new topics or help students master skills where they have struggled. That’s okay because the state-mandated tests will show the teachers where each individual student needs to improve and provide timely feedback on how to help each student succeed, right? Wrong.

State-mandated tests, which are given toward the end of the school year, do not provide results to school districts until the next school year after the students have already settled into their new classrooms with new teachers. Any concerns identified by last year’s test would have to be addressed by this year’s teacher, who is already concentrating on preparing the students for the next end-of-the-year test.

So, without year-end standardized testing how can school districts empower teachers with data on what their students know? How can states, like Georgia, hold the school districts accountable to educational standards?

The Cobb County School District has the solution. It’s an innovative assessment model called Cobb Metrics, which focuses on the individual student. It shows  what  each student  knows  and how to teach  each student  what they don’t know.

The Cobb County School District’s educational leaders decided to develop the district’s own assessment system to empower teachers, demonstrate learning, provide accountability, realign instructional time, and lead the way in transforming the education system.

Cobb applied to the state of Georgia with an innovative assessment model to stop giving Cobb students the state-mandated Georgia Milestones summative test in favor of piloting the Cobb-created assessment system. Georgia approved Cobb’s request in September, and the U.S. Department of Education is expected to give final approval before the end of the year.

Before Cobb is able to win federal approval, the Georgia Department Education must submit an application with the U.S. Department of Education with one alternative assessment model. Georgia is considering sending three state-approved assessment pilots to the U.S. Department of Education. However, due to the strict requirements outlined in the federal assessment application, the federal government will only approve a plan with a single assessment pilot, which is capable of being scalable to the entire state.

Under Cobb’s new assessment model, teachers will see instant feedback on what their students know so they can immediately adapt their instruction to meet the needs of their students. Instead of one test on one day, students have the opportunity to prove mastery many times throughout the year, which will provide teachers a more complete picture of what each student knows. Teachers will also be able to realign their instruction throughout the year as Cobb Metrics provides updated feedback on how students are progressing.

“The outdated model of end-of-the-year testing is equivalent to an autopsy, which determines a problem, but it’s too late for a solution,” said Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale. “Cobb Metrics is more like a biopsy that allows teachers to diagnose areas of weakness and adjust their teaching to help each student succeed.”

The Cobb assessments, which align with Georgia standards and provide immediate feedback, are not limited to multiple choice questions. Instead, students will be able to fully demonstrate learning through multiple methods.

Like the teachers, parents will also have instant access to data on student performance. The parent portal will provide educational resources parents can use to supplement learning and ensure their student’s success in the classroom.

Although Cobb Metrics provides accountability for each student, school administration can broaden the scope to see how a specific class or the entire school is mastering a standard. The data is also available at the District level, and if Georgia rolls out Cobb Metrics statewide, the data would also allow for statewide accountability.

Georgia’s current Milestones assessment is designed to compare Georgia schools and school districts with one another, as well as, students around the country. Cobb Metrics can check that box and demonstrate whether a student is able to advance to the next grade. However, Cobb’s new assessment system takes it one step further. It gives teachers, students, and parents standards-level data in real time which allow better instructional decisions to happen during the school year…not at the end of the school year once it’s too late to make a difference for students.

Cobb’s innovative model also decreases teacher workload and frees up at least a week of valued instruction time, previously occupied by the end-of-the-year testing.

If the Cobb County School District wins federal approval, the 23rd largest school district in the country could complete the transition from Georgia Milestones to Cobb Metrics by 2020.

Although the full roll out may take two years, Cobb Metrics has been in development for more than five years. The Cobb Teaching and Learning System (CTLS), which will power the assessments behind Cobb Metrics, is already in use by Cobb teachers. CTLS Parent will be available to Cobb parents in spring 2019.

“One of the best parts about Cobb Metrics and CTLS is that they were designed for students,” said Superintendent Ragsdale. “Assessment should be a tool used by teachers to effect positive change in instruction for each and every student. I’m proud to see Cobb leading the way in changing how our educational system helps students succeed.”