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More school system test scores improve
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The Effingham County School System improved its scores this year from last year in both the Fifth-Grade Writing Assessment and Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, school officials reported Wednesday.

The Fifth-Grade Writing Assessment scores were a bit of a mixed bag. Five of Effingham’s eight elementary schools raised their mean score from last year; at the same time, five elementary schools had a decrease in their percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standard for the test.

“Even though we had more students who did not meet (the standard), their scores were higher,” Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff told the Effingham County Board of Education. “They were closer to the bar to meet, and certainly our ‘exceeds’ students drove up our total scores across the district, so we have very positive movement.”

The 814 Effingham County fifth-graders who took the writing assessment in March posted a mean score of 220, which Arnsdorff said was the district’s highest score ever. Effingham County scored a 216 last year on the test, which rates students’ scores on a scale of not meeting (100-199), meeting (200-249) and exceeding (250 and above) the standard.

Effingham surpassed the mean score for the state (215) and the First District Regional Educational Service Agency (210). Effingham County’s 220 ranked ahead of the other 17 school districts in First District RESA, as did its 18 percent of students exceeding the standard.

Sixty-six percent of Effingham fifth-graders met the standard, giving the district a total of 84 percent meeting or exceeding. That was down from 88 percent last year.

But, Arnsdorff said, “We have doubled the number of students who exceeded standards since 2010, when we were at 9 percent.”

Since then, the Effingham County School District has taken steps to improve writing in all grade levels, such as establishing uniform methods for teachers to use in the classroom and having a designated literacy intervention specialist who works closely with each elementary school. Also, students maintain writing portfolios beginning in kindergarten, so samples of their work accompany them through each grade.

“Our writing scores have shifted greatly from a few years ago,” Arnsdorff said. “I think our consistency of effort is paying off, and we’ll continue to hone our work as we move forward.”

Effingham’s highest score increases from last year to this year were 12 points at Marlow Elementary (213 to 225) and Rincon Elementary (210 to 222), and 10 points at South Effingham Elementary (222 to 232). The three decreases in scores — at Blandford, Ebenezer and Sand Hill elementary schools — were each by four points.

Marlow also had the highest number of students meeting or exceeding the standard, 93 percent, followed by South Effingham with 90 percent and Rincon with 89. That was an increase of 6 percent for Rincon and 4 percent for Marlow; Springfield (2 percent) was the only other school with an increase.

First look at CRCT scores
Effingham County scores improved across the board on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, which are given in five subject areas to students in grades 3-8.

Arnsdorff gave the school board a preliminary look at this year’s CRCT scores. A complete report will be given when state data is available, he said.

The news was particularly good for Effingham’s elementary schools, which saw higher scores than last year in reading, English, math, science and social studies in third, fourth and fifth grades.

“As a system, we increased our performance in every grade level in elementary school in every content area,” Arnsdorff said.

That included 100 percent of students meeting or exceeding the standard in nine content areas — fifth-grade English at Blandford; third-grade reading at Guyton; fifth-grade English and math at Marlow; fifth-grade reading, English and math at Rincon; and fourth-grade reading and English at South Effingham.

Among middle schools, Effingham’s scores increased in nine of the 15 content areas — including all five for eighth grade. The highest eighth-grade scores were 99 percent meeting or exceeding the standard in reading and 98 percent in English.

“Every school has something that they can be proud of and they also have things that they can concentrate on and work on for next year,” Arnsdorff said.

Arnsdorff credited the district’s teachers for their hard work, especially since they had to adjust this year to the implementation of the new Common Core Georgia Performance Standards.

“I think these test scores speak again to the hard work and dedication of our staff. I don’t need to tell this board that this has been a challenging year for our instructional staff,” he said.

“That’s very good,” board of education Chairman Lamar Allen said of the test scores. “You can’t ask for much more in one year. That’s outstanding work on our staff’s part.”