Student success starts with effective instruction and teacher practice!

Professional learning that leads to effective teaching practices, supportive leadership and improved student results is characterized by:

  • Learning communities committed to continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and alignment of goals.
  • Leaders who develop capacity and advocate and create support systems for learning.
  • Prioritized resources for educator learning which are monitored and strategically coordinated.
  • A variety of sources and types of data used to plan, assess and evaluate learning.
  • Integrated theory, research, and models of adult learning aligned to intended outcomes.
  • Applied research on change coupled with sustainable support for implementation of long term change.
  • Alignment of outcomes for educator performance and student curriculum standards.

Our professional learning sessions are designed to be interactive, engaging, and reflective. Our experienced facilitators scaffold teacher learning with tools and strategies that support student learning. Assessment and reflection activities are combined with implementation tools to ensure continuous improvement. Professional learning sessions are led by GCA staff with deep expertise in the areas of assessment (formative and summative), literacy, reading and writing, mathematics, data analysis, school improvement and leadership as well as teaching experience in the K-20 classroom.

We are proud to offer the following Professional Learning opportunities:

ELA & Mathematics Assesslets

GCA’s Assesslets are practice assessments that use the Georgia Milestones format and the Milestones ELA rubrics. Assesslets support formative instructional practices and provide information on student performance. Educators have the flexibility to administer Assesslets as they provide instruction. The data from Assesslets are returned quickly to assist teachers in enhancing instruction and increasing student learning.

While the Assesslets may not replicate the identical format of the Georgia Milestones Assessments, they are aligned to the same standards assessed on the new End of Grade (EOG) and End of Course (EOC) assessments. Assesslets are NOT intended to predict performance on the Milestones assessments but do provide information on student achievement so that teachers may target instruction.

If you administer any or all of our Assesslets, GCA is also available to work with your school in analyzing the data and applying the information to effective classroom instructional strategies. Black and William’s (2001) research shows that formative assessment data and the transfer of that data to instruction not only improves student learning, but also contributes to significant gains in achievement.

Let GCA’s team help your team enhance instructional practices based upon Assesslet results and improve student achievement!

Learn more about ELA and Math Assesslets from GCA:

Writing Quality Assessment Items

As Georgia’s educational testing and measurement organization, GCA develops, administers, and scores state, district, school and classroom assessments.

An assessment is only as good as the process by which it is created. GCA has vast experience in the process for designing, developing, administering and scoring assessments. The assessment development process is a comprehensive process which involves multiple steps to ensure the validity and reliability of the assessments.

GCA works closely with our clients at every phase of the assessment process, from designing through scoring and reporting. Our experience, combined with the flexibility in customization for our clients, allows us to create products that are aligned with our client’s expectations and requirements; most importantly, customized services provide a substantial cost savings.

While GCA offers an all-inclusive development package, we recognize our clients have varying needs. GCA also provides specific services that best suit your assessment needs, including:

  • Planning
  • Assessment Development
    • Webb’s Depth of Knowledge
    • Deconstructing Standards
    • Learning Targets
    • Universal Design
  • Administration
  • Scoring and Reporting
  • Research
  • Evaluation
  • Professional Development

Developing Students’ Literacy Skills (workshop for teachers)

Whether on assessments like the Georgia Milestones, or in life in general, a clear indicator of student achievement is the ability to read and write effectively, in a variety of contexts. For this reason, developing students’ literacy skills is one of our greatest opportunities. From this workshop, teachers can expect:

  • an engaging discussion of evidence-based practices in literacy instruction, in a variety of content areas
  • to feel more confident in developing students’ literacy skills

Developing Students’ Literacy Skills (workshop for students)

During these workshops, we model evidence-based practices in literacy instruction by taking students through a 45-minute lesson, which incorporates reading, writing, speaking, and listening.  Teachers and administrators are encouraged to observe. Following the lesson, our facilitators hold a QA session with teachers and administrators to discuss what they observed, what they thought was effective, what they would have modified, and how they can apply similar strategies in their own teaching.

From this workshop, students can expect:

  • an engaging lesson
  • to feel more confident about reading, writing, and discussion
  • to apply what they learned to similar literacy activities

Assessment Audit

Student assessment is an essential component of a high-quality teaching and learning process. As we begin implementation of the new Georgia Milestones, this is a perfect time to also evaluate the status of district, school, and classroom assessments. This Assessment Audit offers tools and resources to help you determine whether your assessment system is in balance – that is, does it include policies and practices that will meet the assessment needs of all learners? Is it aligned to instruction to promote and to report student learning?

The audit is organized around three guiding questions:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. Where are we now?
  3. How do we improve student learning and achievement?

GCA is also available to review your interim, benchmark and/or classroom assessments and provide feedback on the following components:

  1. Does the assessment align to the learning targets of the standard?
  2. Does the assessment align to instruction?
  3. Does the assessment have an adequate balance of rigor?
  4. Is the assessment accessible to all students?
  5. Does the assessment align with the intended purpose?

Data-Driven Decision Making – Professional Learning Communities (PLC)

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A balanced assessment plan that includes formative and summative assessments, combined with analysis and the use of results will enable PLC team members to plan together and to assist each other, ensuring student achievement.

The professional learning is organized around five essential questions:

  1. To what extent does the school have a balanced assessment plan?
  2. To what degree have stakeholders been trained for using formative and summative assessments to support decision making?
  3. How are teachers using assessments of and for learning in their classrooms?
  4. How do collaborative teacher teams analyze data and student work?
  5. How do teachers use assessment results and exemplars of student work?

Our Professional Learning Team

Jeff Barker, Ph.D.

Associate Director

Jeff has been with the Georgia Center for Assessment since March 2014. After graduating with a B.S. in Public and Urban Affairs from Georgia State University, he majored in Education at West Georgia College, where he earned a Master of Education degree. Upon earning a M.Ed., Dr. Barker continued his studies at Georgia State University and obtained an Education Specialist degree (Ed.S.) in Educational Leadership.

Dr. Barker received a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning with a dual emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction, and Educational Leadership from Georgia State University. His research interests are in the areas of assessment, specifically formative assessment and its impact on instruction, learning, and achievement. Jeff’s research has focused on utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to investigate the process involved in the development of classroom formative assessment. Jeff is interested in understanding how the results from those assessments are transferred to effective instructional practices and professional learning. His research has also included students with learning disabilities and English Language learners.

Jeff has taught for over twelve years in both elementary and middle school and served as a school administrator in Gwinnett County Public Schools. Before joining the Georgia Center for Assessment, he had been the Director of Assessment at the Georgia Department of Education and Executive Director of Accountability and Assessment in Gwinnett County Public Schools.

Dr. Barker has contributed to research on 21st-century learning, specifically in the field of artificial intelligence and the development of gaming/simulation models in K-12 assessment. He has collaborated in the field with such organizations as the Institute of Play, GLASS Labs, and Pearson’s Center for Next Generation Learning and Assessment to advance next generation assessment in Georgia schools. Dr. Barker has served on Georgia committees for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) as well as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Kay Elder, M.Ed.

Assistant Director

Kay S. Elder serves as an Assistant Director at the Georgia Center for Assessment (GCA), and her work is focused on assessment development. Kay is the Project Lead for the development, leadership and management of the Georgia Kindergarten Entry Profile as well as development of formative tools to support the transition to Georgia Milestones. She provides overall organizational leadership which includes customer relations with the Georgia Department of Education(GaDOE) and other parties, managing program quality, program management of contracts, allocation of staff resources, development of budgets and the development and sustainability of professional learning.

Most recently, Ms. Elder has served as the Director of Assessment of Gwinnett County Public Schools. In addition to overseeing the administration of national, state and local assessments, Ms. Elder has led the development of district interim assessments in the core content areas in grades 1-12, and integrated performance tasks in grades 4, 7 and 9. She has been instrumental in the implementation of the GaDOE Formative Instructional Practices modules in Gwinnett, and has provided assistance in the development of these modules and professional learning focused on assessment development. With 29 years of service in public education, Ms. Elder has also served as a primary grades teacher, assistant principal, Director of Elementary Summer School, and Coordinator of Assessment.

Earning a Bachelor of Science in Education with a concentration in Early Childhood Education and a Master of Education with a concentration in Reading from the University of Georgia in 1985 and 1989 respectively, Ms. Elder is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction from Mercer University. Her research interests are in the areas of formative assessment, early childhood assessment and assessment innovations.

Kevin Raczynski, Ph.D.

Assistant Director

Kevin has been with the Georgia Center for Assessment for over twelve years. After earning a B.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he studied English Composition at the University of Georgia, where he earned his Master of Arts (M.A.) degree. During this time, Kevin taught First-Year English and worked as a rater at the Georgia Center for Assessment. Upon earning his M.A., he continued as an instructor of First-Year English at the University of Georgia. In August 2005, he joined the Georgia Center for Assessment full-time as a program coordinator. His main responsibilities included assessment design, development of rater training, and the monitoring of rater accuracy. Kevin’s current role at the Georgia Center for Assessment is Assistant Director, a post he has held since September, 2014.

Kevin received his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, with an emphasis in Quantitative Methods, from the University of Georgia. His research concentrates on performance assessment, with a focus on rater training, rater accuracy, and rater cognition. Concurrently, he researches adolescent literacy.

He has shared research-based literacy strategies with thousands of students and educators across Georgia, in a variety of subject areas. His work with students—ranging in age from Kindergarten to university undergraduates—centers on close readings, gathering evidence, and writing clearly. His work with educators involves much of the same and includes approaches for classroom literacy assessment, feedback strategies, and tracking students’ progress.

Linda Calhoun, Ed.S.

Education Program Specialist

Linda has been with the Georgia Center for Assessment since 2010; at that time, she had just retired after 30 years as serving as an educator, and most recently as the Director of Assessment in Gwinnett County. Upon graduating from the University of Georgia in 1972, Linda began her teaching career in Gwinnett County. During her 18 years in the classroom, Mrs. Calhoun has taught Kindergarten through ninth grade in all content areas. In 1997, Linda had become an Assistant Principal in Gwinnett County where she has worked specifically with assessment, curriculum, and professional learning. This experience eventually led Linda to a position at the Georgia Department of Education in the Assessment and Accountability Office and in the School Improvement Office.

Mrs. Calhoun completed her Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree in Middle School Education at Georgia State University, and earned a Specialist Degree in Curriculum and Supervision from the University of Georgia. She has always enjoyed working with teachers to make connections between assessment and instruction.

Tracy S. Robertson, Ed.S.

Program Coordinator

Tracy S. Robertson serves as a Program Coordinator at the Georgia Center for Assessment (GCA). She is the Project Lead for the development, leadership, and management of the Gwinnett County Gateway Assessment. Her role includes project management, budget development, professional development, and developing customer relationships.

Most recently, Ms. Robertson has served as the Coordinator of Assessment of Gwinnett County Public Schools. In this role, she had supported the development of an ongoing improvement process for the creation, administration, and revision of formative, interim, and summative assessments including SLO’s, district benchmarks, GHSWT, GHSGT, GKIDS, EOCT and Gateway. In her 16 years of service in public education, Ms. Robertson has taught grades K-12 special education in self-contained, resource, and collaborative settings. Through these varied experiences, Ms. Robertson has developed a skill set that highlights her ability to identify and support the goals and objectives of a K-12 assessment program. Tracy’s responsibilities have included the development of a communication plan, calendar, and professional learning program to facilitate effective practices and process of assessment in all schools. She has also worked to build strategic alliances with district and school level leadership that have resulted in a cohesive assessment program.

Ms. Robertson earned a Bachelor of Science in Special Education in 1998 from Columbus State University. She continued to further her education with a Master of Science in Special Education degree from Georgia State University in 2002, and Specialist in Educational Leadership degree from the University of West Georgia in 2010.

Stephanie A. Lai, Ph.D.

Assistant Research Scientist

Stephanie Lai has been with the Georgia Center for Assessment (GCA) for over four years. Prior to moving to Georgia, Stephanie had earned a B.S. in Psychology, with a concentration in Cognition, and a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Educational Psychology from the University of Florida. During this time, Stephanie taught the undergraduate course in Educational Psychology and also served as a tutor and life skills coach at Academic Success, a program that works to provide individualized academic, social, emotional, and career support to post-secondary students with learning disabilities. After completing her Master’s program, Stephanie moved to Georgia to begin the doctoral program at the University of Georgia.

While pursuing her doctorate degree, Stephanie led a tutoring program at a nearby elementary school that primarily focused on early literacy. In 2011, she joined GCA as a Reading Content Specialist for the CRCT-M program and then later as a Program Coordinator for multiple concurrent Georgia assessments. Her main responsibilities included item and test development, creating and delivering training materials and webinars, and supervising the process for scoring and reporting. Stephanie went on to receive a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Georgia with an emphasis in Applied Cognition and Development. Stephanie currently serves as an Assistant Research Scientist for GCA, a position she has held since September 2014.

Stephanie’s research interests are in the areas of applied cognitive processes specifically in early childhood learning. Her research has focused on investigating the processes involved in vocabulary acquisition, reading comprehension, and other higher-order cognitive skills in diverse student populations, including students with learning disabilities and students from low socioeconomic communities. Her publications include topics such as investigating the longitudinal relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension skills in second grade children as well as an in-depth review on the research and practice of using accommodations during high-stakes testing. Most recently, she investigated the validity of the lexical diversity measure, D, as a fair and valid form of vocabulary measurement in African American kindergarten children compared to standardized measures of vocabulary which have shown to exhibit bias in this population.

Heather Hartley, M.A.


Heather Hartley has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with concentrations in Psychology and English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a Master of Arts degree in English Education from Piedmont College. Currently, Ms. Hartley is a Doctor of Philosophy candidate of Business Administration at Northcentral University. At the Georgia Center for Assessment (GCA), Ms. Hartley has coordinated logistics for various scoring projects, including state writing assessments in grades 5, 8, and 11, as well as science and social studies content assessments.

Heather has assisted in the delivery of, and the scoring for, the 2014, 2013, 2012 Pearson Benchmark Project Administrations (Grades 3-HS) within the following content fields: American Literature, 9th Grade Literature, ELA, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Biology, Advanced Algebra, and Geometry. As part of the Writing Content development and leadership teams at GCA, Ms. Hartley has developed products which promote student learning and integrate projects across departments. She has created several in-house training materials, including an interdisciplinary writing style guide, an organization-wide calendar, and a quality assurance procedural document specific to the Georgia Student Growth Model reports. Ms. Hartley is charged with assuring all documents are aligned with Georgia Department of Education guidelines.

As an experienced English Language Arts (ELA) grades 6-12 teacher, Ms. Hartley has provided educational services consultation and administration for the past fifteen years. She has served in pivotal roles that promote learning: academic advisor for the federal grant, Supplemental Educational Services (SES); trainer for Reciprocal/Research-based teaching modules; teacher mentor for remedial reading and writing programs designed for Title I learners and at-risk youth; and instructor in Interrelated/ Inclusion Special Education classrooms.

Contact us for more information on our suite of Professional Learning opportunities.