Math scores up for eighth-graders in Middle Georgia

Midstate eighth-graders rose to the challenge this year when it came to tackling the state’s harder math curriculum on state exams.

Middle Georgia math scores inched upward for that grade on this year’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

Statewide, 70 percent of eighth-graders passed the CRCT math section taken in March and April, compared to 62 percent of eighth-graders who passed the exam last year.

The state uses CRCT scores in different subjects as its accountability measure under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Schools must improve their scores each year to make Adequate Yearly Progress.

While the math results aren’t yet stellar, Middle Georgia’s eighth-graders did show that they are improving.

“It was a new curriculum and new test, so teachers have now had a year under their belt,” said Wanda Creel, the Houston County school system’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. “With the performance of our students, we’re now seeing a real progression.”

During the 2007-08 school year, the state introduced a new math curriculum that included integrated algebra, geometry and statistics to eighth-graders. Before the switch, students didn’t see many of those concepts until high school.

In Houston County, 81 percent of eighth-graders passed the math exam, an increase of 3 percentage points from 2008.

Eighth-graders in Bibb, Baldwin, Jones, Laurens, Monroe and Twiggs counties also made gains in the math test this year, while the Peach County school system had a slight drop.

The Jones County school district saw a 13 percentage point gain on its eighth-grade math exam results this year.

“We had a significant increase,” Assistant Superintendent Vicki Rogers said. “We still have a long way to go. Sixty-five percent is not good enough, but it’s better than last year.”

After a new curriculum is adopted, it usually takes a couple of years to see a significant improvement in test results, but Rogers said teachers and students adapted after just one school year.

“They’ll be better prepared for whatever they plan for after high school, whether college, technical college or work ready,” she said. “Math is an important part of daily living, and we want them to be prepared.”

In Bibb County, 49 percent of eighth-graders passed the math exam this spring, an increase of 7 percentage points from last year.

“I don’t think we’re where we want to be until we get all kids proficient, but we are pleased we made gains,” said Diana Rodgers, Bibb’s deputy superintendent of teaching and learning.

While the Bibb school district didn’t improve in all subject areas this year compared to last, school officials say that since a new state curriculum was infused in all subject areas starting in 2006, the system has made gains over time.

“We’re proud when we look at the total picture of the Georgia Performance Standards rollout to date and where we track,” she said. “We show improvement, some dramatic.”

State officials said they were especially pleased with state CRCT gains this year in science and mathematics.

Fifth-graders in most midstate school systems also made gains on the math exam, scores showed.

The Baldwin County school system, for example, had an 11-percentage-point increase, and Bibb County showed a 13-percentage-point gain in the number of fifth-graders passing the test on the first try.

There were mixed results on the CRCT science exam that seventh-graders took, however.

Some systems fared better than others, such as the Monroe County school district, where 78 percent of seventh-graders passed. That was an increase of 2 percentage points from 2008.

But seventh-graders in Bibb, Houston, Laurens, Peach and Twiggs counties did worse on that test this year than last year.

In Bibb, 55 percent of seventh-graders passed science, a decrease of 6 percentage points from 2008. In Twiggs, 51 percent of seventh-graders passed science, a drop of 9 percentage points from 2008.

Results for CRCT reading exams for most grades held steady this year compared to last.

Students in third, fifth and eighth grades can be retained if they don’t pass reading or math CRCT sections. Students in those grades retook the CRCT in late May for another chance to pass the exams. The state hasn’t released those scores yet.

Elementary and middle school students are tested each spring on the CRCTs to see how much of the state’s grade-level curriculum they have learned over the course of the school year.

Older students are tested in reading, English/language arts, math, social studies and science, while younger elementary grades are tested in reading, English language arts and math.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.