Midstate schools gain on tests, though gaps remain

Telegraph staffJuly 10, 2013 

An entirely different set of test scores released Wednesday suggest that Middle Georgia schools generally lag behind the state, but are improving.

In the latest End-Of-Course Test results, Middle Georgia schools often had passing rates at least 20 percentage points below the state’s average.

Among the rare exceptions was in Houston County, where the system average was above the state average -- sometimes just by a hair -- on the most common tests. At the individual school level, Houston County’s Warner Robins High and Northside High had passing rates that almost always fell below the state’s average.

On those same popular End-Of-Course Tests, the Bibb County school system fell well below the state average in every test. Only Howard High School, the Hutchings Career Center, Howard Middle School and Miller Magnet Middle School appeared to exceed the state passing average in any test. Most of those schools beat the state average on a single test, a Telegraph analysis suggests.

Statewide, students improved on almost every test compared to the previous year, according to data released Wednesday by the Georgia Department of Education.

“These scores show the hard work of our teachers and students is paying off. ... However, we are not where we need to be in every subject, particularly in math,” state School Superintendent John Barge said in a news release.

The least successful common test for both Bibb and Houston counties was “coordinate algebra,” which just 12.9 percent of students in Bibb County passed and 41.2 percent of students in Houston passed. Still, Houston’s score was above the state average of 37 percent. Bibb and Houston were the second-worst and second-best in Middle Georgia, respectively. Twiggs County had the low passing rate of 6.3 percent, while Bleckley County drew 41.5 percent, a Telegraph analysis suggests.

It was the first time students took the test since schools began offering coordinate algebra in the fall. Officials expect scores to increase next year.

The coordinate algebra test gives students and educators a preview of future tests, which will be more rigorous due to federal criteria.

“Over time, I am confident that our students will become more comfortable with the new level of rigor and will demonstrate that in their college and career readiness,” Barge said.

In a statement, the Bibb County school system said it had strong increases in the number of students scoring at the proficient level in biology and math, including a 26 percentage point increase in the number of students proficient in math at Northeast High School. The percentage of students proficient on the Math II tests jumped by 30.5 points at Hutchings Career Center and by more than 20 points at Central, Howard, Rutland and Southwest high schools, the district said. The system also noted improvements in proficiency in other areas and schools.

In Houston County, school officials are working closely with teachers and math coaches to help students improve on the algebra test, said Eric Payne, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.

The End-Of-Course Tests are offered in 11 areas, including economics, biology, physical science, literature and math. Some of those tests have just a few thousand students across the state taking them. Others have more than 100,000 test-taking students. Most tests are taken in high school and count toward students’ grades in their classes. Some districts require passing grades on the End-Of-Course Tests to walk in graduation ceremonies.

The End-Of-Course Tests are replacing the Georgia High School Graduation Tests.

Wednesday’s End-Of-Course Test results followed by a day the release of schools’ Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, which are offered in elementary and middle schools.

In the End-Of-Course Tests, a few perfect passing rates shone. All of Hutchings Career Center’s 19 students who took the American literature test passed. Likewise, all of the dozen Miller Magnet Middle School students who took the coordinate algebra test passed.

Such high-scoring schools were rare indeed. Among the lowest-performing schools in Middle Georgia was Twiggs County High School, which drew the 6.3 percent passing rate on the coordinate algebra test after just 4 of 63 students met expectations, just enough to pass. No students exceeded expectations on that test. On some other tests, 22.4 percent of Twiggs County students passed the U.S. History test, with 32.9 percent passing the Math II test and 36.2 percent passing the biology test. Twiggs County High’s best score, of 71.4 percent passing the 9th-grade literature test, was still more than 14 percentage points below the state average.

In both Bibb and Houston, students were most successful on the American literature tests. In Houston, 91 percent passed, while 80.5 percent passed the test in Bibb. Statewide, 90.8 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in that subject, according to the data.

There is still room for improvement, Payne said. In Houston County, the goal is not to teach children how to pass a test. Instead, educators are focusing on teaching the curriculum, which should result in good test scores, he said.

“If we just teach kids how to take a test, that’s all we’re teaching them,” Payne said. “They aren’t just numbers. They are kids sitting in our classrooms, and they are the future.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751. To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service