Students score better on state tests this year

ATLANTA — School districts around the state are pouring over results from this year’s Georgia Milestone Tests.

Across the state, reading scores went up three points. Math scores were up one point for fifth-graders.

For Atlanta Public Schools, the district saw their highest scores ever.

Two years ago, half the district showed gains year-to-year. This year, it’s nearly 90%.

CLICK HERE to look at Milestone test results from across the state.

“It’s a real testament to how hard people have been working, implementing our turnaround strategy, staying true to our strategic plan and, of course, putting that child-centered agenda back in focus for Atlanta Public Schools,” said APS Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen.

She told Channel 2's Steve Gehlbach that the once-a-year milestones are important for anyone, even those who don't have kids in public schools.

“If you’re a taxpayer, you do want to know your money’s being used responsibly, actually making the community better,” Carstarphen said.

With Atlanta being a big, diverse, urban district, APS still falls below state averages, but test scores slightly closed the gap in 2019.


That included both charter schools, including Kipp Ways Primary, and traditional neighborhood schools, such as Hutchinson Elementary. Both schools saw double-digit percent increases in scores.

“So that means we’re doing a better job of educating all kids and seeing those increases is encouraging,” Carstarphen said.

When Carstarphen took over as superintendent, APS had a list of failing schools, at risk of takeover by the state.

This year, all 17 targeted elementary schools in the district's turnaround strategy saw increases of students rated proficient or better.

Three schools, including Hollis Innovation Academy, saw double-digit percentage gains since 2016.

That year the STEM school opened to serve English Avenue and Vine City had less than 6% of students meeting that prominent goal. Today, it’s more than 16%.

But the superintendent admits there’s more work to do.

“It is imperative that we start meeting those targets across the board and not only narrow the gap with the state, but closing it,” Carstarphen said.

Scores Have Impact on Housing Market

The improved scores are not only good news for students and the community, but for property values.

"Having a good school district was a big factor. My kid is only 3, but eventually we plan on going to school in this district and it's a good district," said Peter Coughter, who just moved into a new development called Cadence in east Cobb County.

"We moved here from Los Angeles, and we decided to do a lot of research and find out what the best districts would be for elementary school, middle school and high school," Coughter said.

He told Channel 2's Craig Lucie that he did a lot of research, looked at several counties, but settled on Cobb County because of the good test scores.

According to Mitchell Palm of the firm Smart Real Estate Data, Coughter’s research was spot on.

Palm showed Lucie "heat maps" displaying reports in real time on which areas have the best test scores so when a developer is looking for their next spot to build, they know exactly where to target home buyers.

"We've been tracking the high school districts, their SAT scores, Great Schools rankings. So the scores are just coming out right now. Great Schools will take those, package them up and then give the school a ranking," Palm said.

The Georgia Milestones assessments released Friday show the strongest overall gains measured in the past five years.

Lucie spoke with some of his Realtor friends and asked them how important these test scores are to the school districts, and they said they are huge selling points. So much so, they said, that they list which school district that house is in, in almost every one of their listings.

The Perry Team with Beacham & Company Realtors makes sure their buyers know their listing is in a neighborhood with a sought-after school.

Coughter said it’s quite simple and a good investment.

"If you're going to go to a public school, you might as well go to the best one you can find," he told Lucie.