Midstate’s CRCT scores mixed

Bibb shows some improvement, still falls behind state

Telegraph staffJune 25, 2014 

CRTCprep

Bernd Elementary School substitute teacher Madeline Parker holds up a good luck sign as students parade through the halls after a CRTC pep rally in the school’s gymnasium in April.

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Some Bibb County test scores have increased, but most of them remain below state averages, according to results of the 2014 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

The statewide CRCT tests third- through eighth-graders in various subjects. In the midstate, scores were a mixed bag, with some districts making high scores all around and others consistently falling behind the state. (The scores referred to in The Telegraph represent the percentage of students who met or exceeded standards.)

While a majority of Bibb’s scores were lower than the state average, there’s been improvement in several areas. Overall, Bibb’s scores increased in 19 of the 30 tested areas compared with the previous year. State proficiency scores increased in 14 of the 30 areas.

Bibb eighth-graders, for example, improved nearly 10 percentage points, from 48.2 to 58.1, in science proficiency. By comparison, eighth-graders across the state improved by just 4 percentage points in science. The district also showed general improvement in reading and language arts, with good scores in those subjects.

Still, math and science scores continued to lag significantly behind statewide averages.

In Bibb, fifth-graders as a whole posted the highest math proficiency score of 79.0, while third-graders had the lowest at 64.9. Comparatively, the state’s average math scores were 87.7 for fifth-graders and 80.7 for third-graders.

Like the majority of school districts across the state, Bibb’s science scores lagged its math scores, with a high score of 70.0 in the seventh grade and a low score of 51.6 in the sixth grade. Statewide, the high science score was 84.2 among seventh-graders, and the low score was 75.1 among sixth-graders.

Social studies scores in Bibb also were low, with sixth-graders posting the lowest score of 61.7 and seventh-graders earning the highest at 69.3.

Still, the district’s goal is to trump the state average in all areas, interim Superintendent Steve Smith said.

“It is obvious we have more work ahead, and we are up to the task,” he said in a statement.

School officials plan to help students improve their test scores by first helping teachers improve. The district has set aside extended school days this coming year for teachers, who will use that time for additional professional learning. Students at a handful of schools will also receive extended learning time through grants.

And some improvement plans, already in place, are having an effect. For example, “proficient” averages increased for all middle school grades in most subjects. Smith attributed that improvement to a new program -- the Advancement Via Individual Determination program -- that has been implemented in the middle schools.

The program trains teachers to use certain practices, in an attempt to prepare students for college and careers. It specifically focuses on disadvantaged students, such as those who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches or who speak English as a second language, according to the program’s website.

Houston County

In every grade level and every subject tested, the Houston school district surpassed the state average for students meeting or exceeding standards.

“We are very pleased with our scores and the fact that we continue to perform at or above the state in all areas,” Superintendent Mark Scott said in a statement. “We are especially pleased with the performance of our eighth-grade students. They improved in every subject when compared to last year, plus they outperformed the state average in science by 10 percentage points and in social studies by 9 percentage points!”

Peach County

For the majority of grade levels and subjects, the Peach school district is not meeting the state average when it comes to the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards.

In reading and language arts, most students at each grade level tested earned scores that met state standards, but the district is producing students who exceed standards at a significantly lower rate than the state average.

And when it comes to math, the district as a whole regressed from 2013. The percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards dropped this year in five of the six grade levels tested. Only 52.7 percent of fourth-graders met or exceeded state math standards this year, for example, a drop of 13 percentage points from 2013. Statewide, 28.3 percent of sixth-graders exceeded the state standard in math, but only 8.7 percent of students did so in Peach.

Fifth-graders met or exceeded state standards in science at a 72.9 percent rate, the highest in the district, and eighth-graders met or exceeded state standards at a 57 percent rate, the lowest. At every grade level, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards in science lagged behind the state average.

Social studies was a bright spot for the district because scores improved this year in five of the six grade levels tested, compared with 2013. Third-graders as a whole performed especially well in social studies, meeting or exceeding the state standards at an 84.5 percent rate, which is higher than the state average.

Comment from Peach school district officials was not available Wednesday. Superintendent Joe Ann Denning, whose last day with the district is Monday, deferred to Mallerina Marshall, director of support services and assessment, but Marshall is on vacation.

Other midstate districts

Like many districts across the state, test scores for Crawford County were also a mixed bag. In some cases, the proficient scores were higher than the state average, and, in other cases, the scores were lower.

Both Jones and Monroe counties earned all-around positive scores. Monroe County trumped the state in every area, and Jones County beat state averages in every area but one. In both school districts, some areas trumped the state by as many as 10 percentage points.

Test changes

Even as school leaders seek to improve scores, state leaders say scores might actually drop over the next couple of years as a new test rolls out in 2015.

The Georgia Milestones Assessment System will replace both the CRCT and the statewide test for high school students -- the End of Course Test. The new test will be more rigorous and will require more from students than the CRCT and the EOCT. It’s an attempt to better prepare students for college and careers, according to the Georgia Department of Education.

“We need to know that students are being prepared, not at a minimum-competency level but with rigorous, relevant education, to enter college, the workforce or the military at a level that makes them competitive with students from other states,” state School Superintendent John Barge said in a statement.

The test will be more consistent for all students from third to 12th grade. It will include more open-ended questions and eventually will be administered entirely online.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331. To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 256-9751.

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