Houston superintendent: SLO test scores won’t count toward final grade

Houston County students’ scores on the state-mandated Student Learning Objectives test won’t count toward their final grade, Superintendent Mark Scott said Monday.

The original decision to count the exam as 20 percent of the final grade sparked a social media firestorm from parents and students, and led to an online petition to omit the scores. The petition included more than 2,000 signatures in less than a week.

While the SLO test is a state requirement meant to measure both students’ academic growth and teachers’ effectiveness, the decision to make it 20 percent of students’ grades was a local decision made by the Houston County school system in fall 2014.

Parents’ main frustration was that students had not been taught the material on the test, and the low SLO scores were dropping many students’ grades. Some students even worried about graduating on time or potentially losing their HOPE scholarships. A handful of concerned parents showed up at the district office Monday afternoon to complain directly to the superintendent.

Scott acknowledged a preliminary review of the test data showed “some inconsistencies.” Some of the low test scores probably spoke more to the test than the student, he said. For example, if a significant majority of students missed a specific question, the problem most likely was with either the wording of the question or the content of the question.

Scott said he received calls from “both ends of the spectrum” -- parents whose children did well on the test as well as parents whose children didn’t.

With the SLO scores now being omitted, students who saw a boost in their final grade because of the test will see it reversed. For those students, Scott said he would deal with any complaints “on a case by case basis.”

Because this is the first year the SLO tests were given to Houston County students, Scott acknowledged the district may have been a little “overzealous in the rigor.” Before deciding how to proceed next year, Scott said, district officials need to revisit and rework the test.

To contact writer David Schick, call 744-4382.