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Gwinnett Gateway Essays

Some tweaks are coming to a test that is synonymous with Gwinnett County Public Schools and has helped the district distinguish itself from others around the state.

In a workshop meeting with the Gwinnett County Board of Education on Thursday, district curriculum and testing officials outlined plans to change parts of the Gateway Test, which is a county graduation requirement, something that was first discussed in 1996 and went live in 2001. Administered in the spring to primarily sophomores in high school to measure their knowledge of world history and chemistry, the test will now be given to 10th-graders for science and 11th-graders in social studies.

“A lot of this is brought forward because we know we have these (new) standards coming,” said Debbie Durrence, executive director of accountability and assessment. Many of the old prompts are no longer usable because they do not align with the new standards, she said, though some of them do.

The history portion will also shift from world history to U.S. history, and in some cases a political systems class that is offered to seniors in high school. Students also will have just four chances to take the test, down from seven, in part because it will be given later in high school.

A pilot for the changes is set to happen during the 2017-18 school year, a field test in 2018-19 and it’s scheduled to be operational by 2019-20.

The school district also plans to bring the scoring back to trained GCPS teachers from the Georgia Center for Assessment scores, which took scoring over in 2012. Also in 2012, GCPS changed the format from two prompts to one, the test required fewer supporting documents and it was judged on three performance levels instead of four. Durrence said about 200 to 250 students per year on average fail the Gateway Test.

Local teacher scoring will shift back to GCPS gradually in the next four school years using alternate, pilot and field tests, with the 2020-21 school year seeing the teachers score the main administration. There are no planned changes to how the tests will be scored or the rubrics used.

Durrence said the shift in history curriculum is meant to focus on civics and citizenship with the country’s foundational documents as a backdrop. Durrence said world history is interpreted differently from state to state and country to country.

“Bringing the scoring back in house makes a lot of sense,” Board member Dr. Robert McClure said. “It’s such a teaching tool for teachers. And in light of new commitments and beliefs of the Board, using the Gateway as an opportunity to reinforce U.S. history is very critical. … I don’t think our kids are benefited by spending years and years and years focusing on the mythology of our history all the time. They need to figure out what’s good about our family. But more importantly, this country was never based on geography or ethnicity, it’s always been based on ideas. If those kids don’t understand those ideas, then I don’t know how we actually do have a country.”

Board approves two waivers to SWSS contract

The BOE approved a 15th and 16th flexibility component to its Strategic Waivers School System contract amendment related to transfer credits and grades, and promotion and retention for re-testing of Georgia Milestones. School districts across the state can receive flexibility in the form of waivers of certain state laws, rules and guidelines in exchange for greater accountability for increased student performance.

Associate Superintendent Steve Flynt said there have been a number of changes across other states with how they accredit schools, and there have been challenges related to transfers.

“We have made very good use of our flexibilities,” Flynt said. “But as you know, SWSS requires us to do this very specifically based on every law. And if you look at flexibilities provided to other areas, such as charter schools, they have broad-based flexibility, and we have, for many years, been a proponent of broad-based flexibility for Strategic Waivers School Systems as well, which would keep us from having to do this every time we find an area of need for an amendment.”

School Crasher program coming to Shiloh Middle

Shiloh Middle will receive a makeover to its enclosed outdoor classroom/courtyard from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday courtesy of the Georgia United Credit Union’s School Crasher program.

This makeover will allow students to experience hands-on instruction in an exterior classroom environment. More than 30 volunteers are expected help work on the space.

HS Gateway Test

The HS Gateway is a Gwinnett County writing assessment that measures a student's knowledge and skills related to the Areas of Focus within World History, Biology, Chemistry, and Language Arts.  The test measures students’ ability to write effectively about 9th and 10th grade Science and 10th grade Social Studies AKS (Academic Knowledge and Skills), the school system’s curriculum.

Students write two essays –
◦one on a Science topic
◦one on a Social Studies topic

In writing a response, students use their own knowledge about the topic as well as information from documents that are provided.  Students have 125 minutes to write each of the essays, one per day.

--Most students take the high school Gateway for the first time in 10th grade.  --Students must pass both sections to earn a regular Gwinnett County high school diploma.  --Students new to Gwinnett are required to take and pass the test before earning a regular high school diploma.

Click here for additional Gateway information and resources.  You can also contact your child's teacher or the CGHS Parent Center for additional information.