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Local students top state marks in end-of-course tests
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High school students in Effingham County are passing the State End of Course Tests at a higher rate than the Georgia average.

Assistant Superintendent  Greg Arnsdorff recently presented the Effingham County Board of Education with the county’s fall 2011 scores, which showed county students scoring above the state averages in every category — math I, math II, U.S. history, economics, biology, physical science, ninth-grade language arts and 11th-grade language arts.

The End of Course Test is given twice a year in Effingham County, in December and in May. The scores account for 20 percent of a student’s final grade in each course.

The highlights included 90 percent of Effingham County ninth-graders passing the language arts test — well above the state average of 79 percent. That number included 95 percent of South Effingham High School freshmen earning a passing grade.
Eleventh-graders also topped the state average in language arts — 94 percent to 86. Effingham County High and South Effingham posted identical 94-percent passing scores in that area.

The largest discrepancy between county and state scores was in mathematics. Despite adjusting to a new math curriculum, Effingham County students passed at a 91 percent rate in math I and 94 percent in math II – compared to just 61 and 68 percent statewide.

“Our students and teachers have risen to that occasion,” Arnsdorff said.

Arnsdorff also commended the efforts in U.S. history, in which the county’s 87-percent passing rate far exceeded the state’s 64 percent, and economics, which had an 80-percent passing rate to the state’s 75.

“We’re particularly proud in both those areas,” Arnsdorff said. “We’re not where we want to be, but 87 percent in history and 80 percent in economics are the highest pass rates we’ve had for those content areas since the administration of this test began (in 2000).”

County students passed at an 81 percent rate in biology, including 88 percent at South Effingham, besting the state’s 67 percent average.

Physical science was also a strong point, with 86 percent of county students passing compared to 68 percent statewide.

Eighth-Grade Writing Assessment
The school board also received the 2012 results of the Eighth-Grade Writing Assessment, which is administered each January.

Overall, 72 percent of Effingham County’s eighth-graders met the standard for the test, 2 percent exceeded the standard and 26 percent did not meet the standard. The county’s 74-percent mark of students meeting or exceeding the standard was the same as a year ago.

The exam, aligned with the Georgia Performance Standards, is designed to assess the level at which a student is able to write. Each paper is rated in organization, ideas, style and conventions.

One area of concern was South Effingham Middle School’s 9-percent decrease in students meeting or exceeding the standard – from 81 percent last year to 72 percent this year.

“The school is analyzing that. I don’t have a reason why that occurred for that particular school,” Arnsdorff said. “We continue to work. This is an area in which the board knows we need more attention.”

On the plus side, Effingham County Middle enjoyed an 11-percent increase – from 59 percent to 70 – in students meeting or exceeding the standard. Ebenezer Middle increased 3 percent, to 81.

Judith Shuman, student and professional learning coordinator for the Effingham County School System, said she will outline at a later school board meeting the changes she anticipates when the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards are implemented this fall.

Adopted by the Georgia Board of Education, the CCGPS is a set of K-12 standards “to prepare students for success in college and/or the 21st-century workplace.”

Shuman said literacy standards will be integrated across the curriculum – not just in English/language arts, but also in math, science, social studies and technical subjects.

“Our children will be writing about everything they read and everything they learn. So it will be a daily practice for them,” Shuman said.