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Effingham test scores beating state average
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Effingham County students scored higher than the state average in every subject in every grade level on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests this past school year.

Based on the number of students meeting or exceeding the standard for the test, Effingham County students in grades 3-8 exceeded the state scores in reading, English, math, science and social studies, Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff reported.

Effingham’s scores were as high as 99 in fifth-grade English and eighth-grade reading, and 98 in fifth-grade reading, fifth-grade math and eighth-grade English.

“As students exit elementary school, they’re leaving very strong,” Arnsdorff said, “and when they leave middle school, at least based on the CRCT, they have very strong performances.”

Arndorff presented the school district’s CRCT scores to the Effingham County Board of Education in June, and he gave an updated report Wednesday with the state data.

Effingham County’s eighth-graders led the way on the CRCT, scoring in the top 10 percent statewide in all five subject areas.

Effingham eighth-graders ranked eighth of out of 184 Georgia school districts in math, 9th in science, 11th in social studies, 17th in English and 18th in reading.

“Eighth grade really blew it out,” Arnsdorff said.

The county’s elementary school students ranked in the top 10 percent in the state in 10 out of 15 content areas — third grade science and social studies; fourth-grade English, math, science and social studies; and fifth-grade reading, English, math and social studies.

End-of-Course Tests
While Effingham County high school students scored higher than the state average in seven of eight subjects on the state End-of-Course Tests, the results showed two areas in need of improvement.

Economics was the lone content area in which Effingham students did not surpass the state, with 71 percent of county students meeting or exceeding the standard, compared to 78 percent across Georgia.

Fortunately, a strong asset is already in the Effingham County School System. South Effingham High School economics teacher John Cook was honored this summer as the Georgia Council on Economic Education’s 2013 Economics Teacher of the Year.

To help improve the district’s EOCT economics scores, Arnsdorff said Cook will work with Effingham County High School staff to develop a common framework for economics instruction for both high schools. Arnsdorff added that ECHS will have a “more concentrated focus” by having fewer teachers responsible for teaching economics.

The second area school officials want to improve is the new EOCT category of coordinate algebra. Effingham County surpassed the state in that area, but with only 42 percent of its students meeting or exceeding the standard.

“Even though we exceeded the state’s pass rate, we’re certainly not satisfied with that number,” Arnsdorff said.

School officials were not sure exactly what the new coordinate algebra test would entail, and Arndorff described it as “greater rigor, higher expectations for student performance — not just that you had to understand how to get the correct answer, you had to adequately provide all the steps to demonstrate that you can arrive at the right answer.

“So that’s something we understand more clearly and will be addressing with our second round of students this year,” he added.

Effingham County’s highest EOCT scores were 93 percent meeting/exceeding in three categories — physical science, ninth-grade English language arts and 11th-grade ELA. The county also surpassed the state average in U.S. history, biology and mathematics II.

Reading Intervention
Arnsdorff concluded his presentation with positive results from the first year of two initiatives to help middle-school students who have reading difficulties.

Read 180 is a comprehensive learning system that includes teacher instruction with the entire class, small-group instruction, independent reading and instructional computer software. System 44 is the companion program to help students who are reading considerably below grade level, such as those in special education or who do not speak English as their first language.

According to Arnsdorff, 129 of 205 (63 percent) of Read 180 students had at least one year’s growth in their reading level. Of those, 51 students (25 percent) saw at least two years’ growth.

Among System 44 students, 21 of 62 (34 percent) had at least one year’s growth.

“I always go back to my staff and say, ‘What would’ve happened to these children if we had not done this?’” Arnsdorff said. “One of the best things we can do is help a child read.”