Effingham County high school students continue to perform well on the high school graduation test, but there were slight decreases in areas of testing compared to last year’s test takers.
The one-year and two-year average of students on the language arts portion of the test decreased 6 percent.
“This is the first time this test had been administered as a GPS (Georgia Performance Standards) test,” Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff said. “We expect that we’re going to be able to do a little bit better next year as we have experience with this test.”
Arnsdorff said the system like the state has had concerns in the areas of science and social studies.
He said the system should be proud of the gains made during the last two years in science.
Arnsdorff said the science test is now a full GPS test and said there were a couple of things the system has done that could explain the jump in students meeting and exceeding the standards.
“We have an academic coach working with teachers at the high schools — we think that may have helped,” Arnsdorff said.
He said in math there has been a consistent performance over the last four years. He said the test is still on the quality core curriculum (QCC).
The new GPS curriculum will be taught in high schools for the first time to ninth grade students in the upcoming school year.
“In the area of social studies, we do about 4 percent better than the state,” Arnsdorff said.
He said the social studies test is a hybrid test using both QCC and GPS curriculum.
Arnsdorff also gave the current graduation rate figures. The rate will change when recalculation is done after summer school.
“We expect that these numbers will only go up from where they are,” he said.
Arnsdorff said Effingham County High School increased the graduation rate in the African American population and in the students with disabilities population.
“Mr. (Yancy) Ford and his strong leadership at ECHS is making a big difference there,” Arnsdorff said. “We have a lot to be proud there.”
South Effingham High School’s overall graduation rate improved.
“They continue to look at how they can improve in supporting economically disadvantaged students and their students with disabilities population,” Arnsdorff said.
He said the system currently has an increase in the overall graduation rate.
“I think our area of challenge that we know continues to be students with disabilities and those students who are economically disadvantaged,” he said.
Arnsdorff said the board should expect the final graduation rate numbers should be presented to the board by September.
He said the system was disappointed in the changes the state made to HOPE scholarship eligibility last year, but the schools are working to make sure students get the support they need, which has led to an increase in the percentage of students in the county who are eligible for the HOPE scholarship this year from last year.
Board Chairperson Vera Jones said she is proud of the continued improvement in the graduation rate.
“I had made a statement to the other board members that I would consider, I think they have made it a bet, if it got to 80 percent, I would shave my head bald,” she said. “So with the current numbers, that might happen.”
Board member Troy Alford believes students are tested too much.
“What can we do as a board? Is there anything we can do as a board policy wise to help our teachers,” Alford asked.
Arnsdorff said he is not there to make excuses for performance.
“I try to provide some information and some rationale as to why things are the way they are,” he said. “I will say regarding high school graduation test results, graduation rate and HOPE eligibility, the changes that you see here and that have been going on, are partly the result of your leadership.”
He said he feels the goals the board will make as they work toward becoming a standards board will provide a “laser focus” for accomplishments the school system will strive for.
“When I first came up here, I told (then Superintendent) Dr. (Michael) Moore there was so much to do, and so much that needed to change sometimes it felt like steering the Titanic,” Arnsdorff said, “and I guess that’s a bad example because we know what happened there. But he said, ‘You’re exactly right. Sometimes a lot of change takes time.’ Now I know we want to change quickly, but teaching is an art.”
Arnsdorff said what the board is currently working on will have an impact on the continued improvement. He said the board’s decision to have content specialists in science and math has helped those content areas.