Many of Houston County’s lowest-performing schools lost more ground on state tests, while Bibb County schools posted generally stagnant scores and most schools remained well below state averages, a Telegraph analysis shows.
On Tuesday, the Georgia Department of Education released the long-awaited 2014 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test results for individual schools. Some of Bibb County’s lowest-performing schools also lost ground, The Telegraph’s analysis shows.
The Telegraph calculated total passing rates for each school. The analysis also compared this year’s performance to last year’s school results and this year’s state average, then weighted the results by the number of students taking them to get a single number for a school.
Riley Elementary School showed the most improvement, with an increase of 7.1 percentage points, with Bloomfield Middle also posting a significant increase of 4.9 percentage points.
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On the other hand, Jones Elementary School decreased by 6.9 percentage points and Bruce Elementary lost 5.5 percentage points.
Of a dozen school systems across Middle Georgia that The Telegraph examined, only Bibb County had schools with passing rates below 60 percent. Six of those 10 schools, all elementary schools, lost additional ground in the latest test results.
“We know we have challenges, and we know we have work to do,” said Bruce Giroux, deputy superintendent of teaching and learning. “We are putting things in place to provide professional learning on an ongoing basis for our schools ... as we make this transition into a new style of assessment and more in-depth learning.”
Most Bibb schools trailed the state averages, but two high-performing schools showed substantial gains over statewide scores: Alexander II averaged 11 points above the state, and Springdale Elementary bested the state by an average 8.6 points.
Still, some schools lagged behind state averages significantly. At Ingram-Pye Elementary, the average passing rate was 32 points behind the state’s, and Burghard Elementary trailed the state’s passing rate by an average 31.2 points, according to The Telegraph’s analysis.
One of Bibb’s top performing schools, Springdale Elementary, places a heavy focus on partnering with parents. It’s one reason for the school’s success on the CRCT, Principal Donna Jackson said.
“We want them to be part of (students’) education. We want them to be part of our school, and we want them to guide us in making educational decisions ... for their children,” she said.
School administrators also concentrate on keeping teacher morale high and set high goals for students, Jackson said.
‘Teaching many subjects’
The individual tests told a familiar story, with many of the same schools still ranking low and consistently high-performing schools continuing to excel.
School officials are well aware that some schools consistently have low pass rates, and they are working to improve achievement in those schools, Giroux said. This past academic year, administrators requested a state analysis of some of those low-performing schools.
State officials recently analyzed Brookdale, Bruce, Burdell-Hunt, Morgan, Rice, Riley and Williams elementary schools, and Ballard-Hudson, Rutland and Weaver middle schools. A theme among all schools was low student achievement, and a top recommendation was to increase professional learning for faculty, according to the Georgia Assessment of Performance on School Standards analysis.
This academic year, the school days will be extended for teachers, as they receive increased professional learning. Additionally, for the first time in years, schools will have content coordinators, who specifically work with teachers in math, science, social studies and language arts, Giroux said.
That support is essential because “many elementary teachers are teaching many subjects,” he said.
Houston County above state, loses some ground
In Houston County, most schools remained above the state average, and sometimes significantly. Of the 16 schools with passing rates below 90 percent, however, 11 lost more ground in the latest year.
Of the six Houston County schools scoring below the state average, four lost more ground. At the lowest end, Pearl Stephens Elementary had the lowest Houston County passing rate, at 67.5 percent, down 2.8 percentage points; Lindsey Elementary School fell 0.2 percentage points to 73.8 percent; and Tucker Elementary School fell to 82.3 percent, down 3.3 percentage points.
Some individual grade levels at schools fell much further. For example, Hilltop Elementary School’s fourth-grade math scores fell 18.3 percentage points, to 71.3 percent, while Pearl Stephens’ fourth-grade math scores fell 17.5 percentage points, to 62.5 percent.
Houston County’s five highest scoring schools all had passing rates of at least 94.1 percent. But the passing rates faltered at Quail Run Elementary, Mossy Creek Middle, Bonaire Elementary and Lake Joy Elementary, increasing only at Feagin Mill Middle School.
Eric Payne, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning in the Houston County school system, said the district’s averages are great.
“In math, we outperformed the state in every grade level, third through eighth. Even though that’s great, we won’t be satisfied. We want all of our students to be successful,” he said.
Some of the lower-performing schools have high poverty rates, but poverty is not an excuse, Payne said.
Teams in each school will use the test scores to determine how the school can address areas of weakness and build on areas of strength. Principals also share ideas and describe what’s worked for them to try to raise all scores, Payne said.
Other communities showed mixed results.
Twiggs County’s Jeffersonville Elementary School posted the second-highest improvement in the passing rate, at 6.5 percentage points. In all, 73.4 percent of students passed the tests, some 11.3 percentage points below the stage average. Twiggs Middle School also improved, but it remained well below the state average.
Peach County’s Hunt, Kay Road and Fort Valley elementary schools also remained well below the state average, while Byron Elementary and Byron Middle were above the state average.
Baldwin County’s Blandy Hills Elementary remained just above the state average, while the other four district schools taking the test remained below the state average. Oak Hill Middle, Eagle Ridge Elementary and Midway Elementary all lost at least 5 percentage points off their passing rate. Midway Elementary School’s passing rate was a full 15 percentage points below state average, at 70.7 percent.
Bleckley County’s two schools had passing rates in the mid-90s, putting them significantly above the state average. Crawford County Middle School closed nearly half the gap to the state average. Dublin schools all remained below the state average, including some well below.
Jones County’s six schools posted both gains and losses, but most of them stayed above the state average. Laurens County school passing rates remained basically stagnant, leaving schools spread around the state average. Monroe County schools all remained above the state average, sometimes significantly so.
Wilkinson County Middle School improved its score to remain above the state average, but Wilkinson County Elementary lost 5 percentage points from its passing rate, among the worst in the region.
Students took the CRCT for the last time this year. Beginning next year, all students in grades 3-8 will take the Georgia Milestones exam, which will include fewer multiple choice and more essay questions.
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331. To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.