Preliminary Criterion Referenced Competency Test results show drops in student performance on new Georgia Performance Standards portions of the test among Effingham County students. But other content areas remain strong.
Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff reviewed the unofficial results with Board of Education members Thursday. Summer re-tests are under way and though the school system has not received officials comparisons for the district or the state, Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff said they did calculations of their own.
Students in first and second grades are tested in reading, English and math. Arnsdorff gave the scores for the current year and the previous two years were given for comparison.
“You will see continued strong showings in elementary school grades one and two on all three tests,” he said. “Occasionally you’ll see a blip of 1 percent or 2 percent, but we are looking at trends over time.”
He said there was one major shift in the third grade test, with a drop of 18 points from the previous year.
“You will see that trend throughout these reports as the state implemented the Georgia Performance Standards in those grades this year,” Arnsdorff said, adding that a new test was developed. “As a result, they had some pretty dramatic drops in test scores around the state. In all other areas, we still had a strong performance.”
There was also a drop in the percentage of students who met or exceeded the standards in math in fourth grade, from 85 percent to 79 percent. Arnsdorff said the new test was started in fourth grade this year as well.
Fifth grade math scores fell from 89 percent to 81 percent passing. Arnsdorff said the state average was 72 percent, meaning Effingham fifth graders’ results were 9 points higher than those from across the state.
He told the board that the state invalidated the scores for sixth and seventh grade social studies because of the severity of the drop in students who passed the test.
The sixth and seventh grade match CRCT tests show the second year of using the new Georgia Performance Standards. Scores in the sixth grade math portion rose from 75 percent passing — meeting or exceeding the standards — to 80 percent.
Arnsdorff said seventh grade math scores improved from 85 percent to 89 percent on the math portion of the CRCT.
“In both sixth grade and seventh grade in the area of mathematics those tests indicate the second year of testing (using the new Georgia Performance Standards),” he said. “For those grade levels, in sixth grade math, we rose from 75 percent meet and exceeds last year to 80 percent.”
Arnsdorff said reading has been a strong point for the district, and 94 percent of sixth grade students met or exceeded the standards on that portion of the test. He said the state average has been reported at 87 percent.
Effingham eighth graders math scores dropped from 91 percent to 70 percent.
“I understand the state average was 62 percent,” Arnsdorff said. “We were 8 percentage points above the state, but it is a 21 percentage point drop for us overall.”
Arnsdorff said the expectation is that teachers will analyze their test results, and there will be more training at the state level in regards to the standards, and a “greater scrutiny of the test.”
“It’s also understood that the state is informing districts that this is a more rigorous test, it has a higher level of accountability and it uses more higher order thinking skills type questions used in the assessment,” he said. “That all being said, I think we as district would say we would have liked to have had a little bit of that information as we moved into the testing cycle.”
He said the system will not make excuses and will rise to the occasion to meet the standards that are in place.
Board Chairperson Vera Jones said CRCT results should not be the only thing parents and students look at. She noted that Effingham students score very high compared to national results of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.
“I think one thing parents and students should understand is while Georgia is working to raise the bar, and they’re testing harder — that really affects the results,” she said. “You have to take this with a grain of salt as far as how we’re looking.”
Arnsdorff said she was correct in her assessment, and that is why the board is given trend data using a number of years to compare student scores. He said the national tests show that elementary students perform above average and middle school students perform in the average range.
“The CRCT, much like the end of course test, is something developed in Georgia by Georgians by teachers, educational professionals, but that is not to say it’s a perfect assessment,” he said. “I think the state superintendent and the state board and the DOE staff are very hard at work now looking at how we’re going to address the concern that is expressed by superintendents, boards of education and teachers.”
He said state Superintendent Kathy Cox has called a committee to review the social studies standards immediately.
She said the standards were so broad that teachers were unsure what they were supposed to cover.
“It’s curious that they chose not to invalidate the eighth grade social studies results,” Arnsdorff said.
Shearouse told the board the state results for the sixth and seventh grade social studies test were approximately 20 percent of students passing.
The percentage of students who passed the eighth grade science and social studies portions of the test also dropped.
In science, 70 percent of students passed, compared to 86 percent last year. In social studies, 68 percent of students passed, compared to 92 percent last year.
Eighth grade students were taking the Georgia Performance Standards math, science and social studies tests for the first time this year.
Arnsdorff said the state education department requested from the U.S. Department of Education a reduction in the annual measurable objectives for the purpose of satisfying the annual yearly progress standard because of the benchmark rising this year in order to meet AYP.
“They tried several things, and those things are going to help the district,” he said. “But the main thing that we are concerned about is making sure our students are prepared, and that we are providing the best instruction possible.”
Jones asked about the process that would allow students who did not pass the eighth grade math portion to be promoted.
“Personally I’m not speaking for the board,” she said. “Personally, to change a test in one year and raise a bar, and then have enormous numbers of students (not pass the test)—I don’t have confidence in that test.”
Arnsdorff said under state law and school board policy, a student could be promoted if a committee is formed and unanimously approves the promotion.
Shearouse said the students who were close to passing the test had the option of a one-day or two weeks of instruction before taking a retest. Other students were recommended to take the four weeks of summer school.
Jones said, “I’m not sure if we have a full grasp on how we need to be tutoring them. How well do we understand what the new CRCT holds for them?”
Arnsdorff said the system asked the math specialist to provide information to the schools and recommended the appropriate instruction to best prepare students for the retest.