Bibb, Houston schools show improvement on EOCTs

jmink@macon.comJuly 16, 2014 

It’s the last year for the high school End of Course Tests, and the latest results show students are still struggling with the new math portions -- but are improving.

Locally, Bibb schools have improved on statewide high school exams, but they still fall below the state in every subject, according to spring 2014 End of Course Test results released Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Houston schools trumped the state in most subjects, and they have mostly improved compared with spring 2013.

In Bibb, American literature had the best results, with 87 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards. Bibb’s mean grade score was an 81 in that subject. Comparatively, 93 percent of students statewide passed the test, with an average grade score of 87.

Like most districts, the lowest mean grade score for Bibb was 61 in analytic geometry, and just 15.2 percent of test-takers met or exceeded standards. The state grade score was 67, and 35 percent passed.

One test, Math II, had low scores at most schools, but very few students took those exams, and they are not comparable to last year’s tests. Also, that subject will not be part of next year’s exam, according to the Georgia Department of Education. While Bibb interim Superintendent Steve Smith said he is pleased with improvements the district has made, “we’ve got a lot of work to do in the areas of math and science,” he said. “A lot of that stems from a scarcity of math and science teachers, and hopefully we’ll be able to address that specifically in the future.”

struggleS with new math tests

State officials warned that scores might plummet, especially in math, as schools introduce different curricula as part of the new Common Core standards. The analytic geometry portion was new this past spring, and it received the lowest scores across the state.

The same scenario happened last year with the new coordinate algebra test. This year, however, coordinate algebra results increased across the state, and officials expect the same results for geometry next year.

The EOCT will be replaced next year with a new test, dubbed the Georgia Milestones. The new test will be more rigorous, with more open-ended questions.

Like Bibb, Houston County followed the state trend when it came to math scores. In Houston County, the lowest score also was in analytic geometry, though Houston’s score still trumped the state average. More than 45 percent of Houston students met or exceeded the analytic geometry exam, compared with the state average of 35 percent. In geometry, Houston ranked 21st out of 181 school systems that took the exam, said Eric Payne, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.

“Any time you can make gains at the high school level, that’s not an easy task,” Payne said. “We’re pleased to outperform the state, but we’re not satisfied. We want all our students to be successful,”

Like many schools across the state, both Bibb and Houston’s coordinate algebra scores increased from spring 2013, when the algebra test was new. Bibb’s coordinate algebra pass rate increased from 12.9 percent in spring 2013 to 18.2 percent this past spring. Coordinate algebra had the biggest increase for Houston County, from a 41.2 percent pass rate to 55.9 percent.

“Now we know what we’re dealing with,” Payne said of the coordinate algebra test. “That’s why our scores went up.”

Monroe County’s algebra pass rate increased slightly to 34.9 percent, and Jones County’s rate improved more than 8 percentage points to 42.7 percent. Peach County bucked the trend with an algebra pass rate that was down nearly 10 percentage points compared with spring 2013. In Peach, 14.3 percent of students met or exceeded the standard this year.

‘Better prepared’

In all area schools, literature tests represented some of the highest scores.

Bibb schools showed increases in every tested subject, some of which were substantial, particularly in literature.

In ninth-grade literature, for example, Bibb’s pass rate increased nearly 10 percentage points to 76.9 percent. The American literature pass rate also increased nearly 7 percentage points to 87 percent. The biggest improvement was in economics, which increased more than 11 percentage points, to a 69.3 percent pass rate.

In Bibb, officials expect a focus on professional development to help improve student achievement. The district is implementing a statewide teacher evaluation and development system, which was deemed optional under the past administration, but is required by the state, Smith said.

Additionally, the district is placing a focus on team work and identifying individual learning styles, and it has extended the school day for teacher training.

“Placing more focus on how to teach and what to teach is going to certainly make our teachers much better prepared to teach students in the classroom,” Smith said.

Houston’s highest pass rate was a 93.8 percent in American Literature -- more than 2 percentage points above last year’s pass rate. Other subjects also showed increases, including U.S. history, which increased more than 2 percentage points to a 75.3 percent pass rate, according to the results.

Teachers are continually taking training sessions, and students are taking Saturday classes and after-school tutoring sessions to increase achievement. District officials have particularly focused on U.S. history, working with teachers to improve learning in that subject, Payne said.

“It’s important for people to realize the amount of work teachers are putting in to help these students become successful,” he said.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.

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