Ga. Democrats want investigation of state tests

Democratic leaders in the Georgia House of Representatives called today for an independent investigation into problems with state tests that led to high failure rates among Georgia students.

House Minority Leader DuBose Porter said today there were early indications that students would struggle with the tests but state school Superintendent Kathy Cox did nothing.

‘‘What did Kathy Cox know and when did she know it,’’ Porter, of Dublin, asked at a state Capitol news conference.

An outside probe is unlikely by the Republican administration of Gov. Sonny Perdue. His office referred calls to Cox.

The school chief said today that she’s been warning parents for some time that math scores would be low because the test was new and the curriculum tougher.

‘‘I’m sorry this has turned into some kind of partisan bickering,’’ Cox said in a telephone interview. ‘‘It’s a shame because this is really about the future of Georgia and trying to get kids in levels of proficiency in math that’s really going to make a difference for us and our state.’’

The official Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests scores released last week confirmed that 38 percent of eighth-graders failed the math test, which represents nearly 50,000 students. The math test helps determine whether a student moves on to high school.

State education officials tossed out social studies scores on the test for sixth- and seventh-graders explaining that the test did not line up with the curriculum. Seventy to 80 percent of students who took the test failed it.

The scores have left parents outraged and led to a surge in summer school enrollment from students looking to retake the test. Cox said the state is providing $1.4 million to help defray summer school costs.

But House Democrats said today that’s not enough.

‘‘Although it’s a Band-Aid we are throwing on the problem at least we ought to pay for the Band-Aid,’’ state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, said.

Cox said she’s asked districts to keep records in summer school attendance so she can request reimbursement from Perdue.