TCSS makes progress in comparsion to state, but GMAS scores show work to do

Published 8:17 am Monday, August 21, 2023

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There’s good and bad in the latest Georgia Milestone scores for the Troup County School System, though overall the system has shown improvement since 2019, a baseline year that provides data from before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, TCSS is below the state average in 23 of the 26 tested areas, which includes testing data from students in third grade through high school. However, as Superintendent Brian Shumate points out, TCSS has also closed the gap on the state in 19 of the 26 tested areas over the last year and 23 of the 26 since 2019.

Superintendent Brian Shumate gave a full breakdown of the scores to the Troup County School Board at Thursday night’s meeting, comparing TCSS to more than 200 schools in Georgia.

“I’m very proud of efforts last year with our instructional focus,” Shumate said in an interview with the LDN. “We are really at the tip of the iceberg the way we work on professional learning communities, teacher collaboration around the standards, working on common assessments and how we know if kids are getting better throughout the year. We have almost 700 teachers and these folks are working hard to really push our students forward. I think we made some progress toward the rest of the state in the 2023 testing cycle, and we look for improvement to continue.”


The Georgia Milestones measures how well students have learned the knowledge and skills outlined in the state-adopted content standards in language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.

Third through eighth-grade students are tested on English language arts, mathematics and reading. Science is tested in fifth and eighth grade and social studies is tested in only eighth grade. In high school, students are tested on American Literature, Algebra I, biology and U.S. history.

There are four achievement levels — beginning leaders, developing learnings, proficient learners and distinguished learners. 

Beginning learners need “substantial academic support” to be prepared for the next grade level and do not demonstrate proficiency in the subject. 

Developing learnings need “additional academic support” to ensure success in the next grade level and demonstrate partial proficiency in the knowledge and skills necessary.

Proficient learners demonstrate proficiency and are prepared for the next grade level.

Distinguished learners are well-prepared and demonstrate advanced proficiency.

GMAS breaks down all scores in this manner, except for reading. Reading scores are either measured as below grade level or at grade level and above.

COMPARING 2022 to 2023

There are numerous ways to look at the data. It can be broken down by elementary, middle and high school (example: elementary reading, middle school math, etc). It can be broken down by grade and subject (example: third-grade math). Or, it can be broken down by school (example: Franklin Forest fourth grade English Language Arts).

TCSS compares it all of these ways. 

When lumping in all data into elementary, middle and high school categories, TCSS saw improvements across the board when it compares to the state data. For instance, in elementary reading, TCSS had scored at 59% of students at the proficient/distinguished level in 2022, while the state had measured 63% of students at that level. In 2023, those scores are 61% for TCSS, while the state scored at 64%, meaning the gap between TCSS and state went from 4 percent to 3 percent. The school system looks at these small gains as progress, especially in a year’s time.

However, Shumate knows there’s a lot of work to do.

“Sixty-one percent of our third graders are reading on grade level. That means 39% aren’t,” Shumate noted during Thursday night’s presentation. “We’ve got work to do. We’re very honest about that.”

The largest improvements were in high school, where TCSS improved its gap with the state by five points or more in every category. 

The comparison is nearly as good when breaking it down by grade and subject.

When measured that way, in 19 of 26 categories TCSS closed the gap with the state. Only three saw the gap get larger — third grade reading (-3%), third grade math (-1%) and fifth grade English Language Arts (-1%).

COMPARING 2019 to 2023

Shumate was hired in 2019, so comparing to that year shows how things have gone in his tenure as superintendent, and it also allows for data before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The 2021 data is also skewed, since the state did not require that virtual students test. Unlike many school districts, TCSS tried to get every virtual student to test, even though some of those students had not stepped on a school campus in over a year. 

Therefore, it could be argued 2019 data is the best compared to 2023 numbers. In general, 2023 data shows TCSS and the state still lag behind where scores were pre-pandemic. 

“We’re still we’re not back to where we were in 2019,” Shumate said.

Since 2019, when grouping the elementary, middle and high school categories together, TCSS has closed the gap with the state in 12 of 14 categories. The two subjects where TCSS has gone backward are in high school — reading (-4%) and biology (-7%).

When breaking the data down by grade and subject, the only other subject that saw its gap with the state increase was fifth-grade English Language Arts.

Fourth-grade saw large gains, with fourth-grade math even surpassing the state (49% proficient/distinguished compared to 46% of the state) and posting an 11-point gain in four years. Fourth-grade reading hasn’t surpassed the state yet, but in 2019 TCSS fourth-graders were 7% behind the state. Now, the gap is 1%. Fourth-grade English Language Arts students were 9% behind the state in 2019. Now they are 1%.

Other huge jumps include high school Algebra 1 (a 12% gain since 2019, putting TCSS 3% above the state) and eighth-grade science (a 13% gain since 2019, putting TCSS 1% above the state).


When measuring proficient and above, Berta Weathersbee Elementary School made improvements in nine of 10 categories its students were tested in. Six of those 10 gains were significant double-digit leaps in third and fifth-grade English Language Arts, fourth and fifth grade reading and third-grade math. 

The one negative was also a large one, a 15-point drop in fourth-grade mathematics since last year. 

Berta Weathersbee Elementary Principal Willie Cooks spoke at Thursday night’s school board meeting, highlighting some of the things the school has done to see such an improvement. He noted celebrating teachers with free breakfast and lunches, parking privileges and student activities such as GreenPower, fine arts, Strings Attached, basketball and more. 

Also, he noted a focus on every student and how they were progressing.

“When you visited Berta, you saw that wall where it had red, yellow, and green,” Cooks said. “Every Wednesday we had our PLC meeting with our team to talk talking about individual kids. Well, we did our mid-year data assessments, the teachers got to see the kids moved from red to yellow and from yellow to green,” Cooks said, with each level indicating progress.

Callaway Middle School and Long Cane Middle School also saw improvements across the board, measuring better in all 11 tested categories. 

TCSS also saw growth in high school, with growth in 14 of the 15 tested categories. Only Algebra I at LaGrange High saw scores go backwards, down 8.5%.

“We made up more ground at the high school and middle school [level], but we had further to go,” Shumate said. 


There’s a lot of data in the massive GMAS report, and even with all of the gains, TCSS still falls behind the state in most categories. However, a few numbers stood out in a few areas where scores declined.

When compared to 2022, fifth-grade scores at Callaway Elementary School saw 5-point drops or more in English Language Arts, reading and science. 

Franklin Forest Elementary scores went down 4.6-points or more across the board in third-grade and fifth-grade English Language Arts, reading and mathematics. Interestingly, despite the decline in third grade, there was significant improvement in all subjects at FFE in fourth grade. Fourth-grade scores went up 12.6 points (English Language Arts), 15.4 (mathematics) and 21.6 (reading). 

Hogansville Elementary, Hollis Hand Elementary and Long Cane Elementary saw drops in 10 of 12 tested areas in fifth grade. However, improvement was made in 15 of the 18 third and fourth grade categories at those schools. 

Gardner Newman Middle School saw eighth-grade scores drop in all five tested categories — English Language Arts, reading, math, science and social studies. Growth was shown in five of the six categories in sixth and seventh grade.