By Greg Gelpi
Results of the state's high school graduation tests indicate that Henry County schools continue to exceed the state average in each category, while Clayton County schools continue to lag in each category.
The Georgia High School Graduation Test results showed that Henry schools improved in each of the four categories of English and language arts, math, social studies and science. Clayton schools improved in English and language arts and science, but declined in math and social studies.
Although the Henry County school system exceeded the state scores in each of the test categories, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Gregory Fields said that work remains in science, an area that has tripped up much of the state.
"In most cases we do feel we're demonstrating progress," Fields said. "We're still nowhere where we need to be (in science)."
The Henry County system scored 99 in English and language arts, 98 in math and 91 in social studies, but 77 in science, which is still ahead of the state science score of 71. The Clayton system scored 96 in English and language arts, 91 in math, 81 in social studies and 59 in science.
The state average is 97 in English and language arts, 95 in math, 87 in social studies and 71 in science.
"We need to continue on our path to continue our improvement," Fields said, citing a 3 percent improvement in science from the previous year. "That continues to remain a concern."
Henry school officials are seeing improvements and will continue to place a "greater emphasis" on the test material, rather than teaching to the test, he said.
"We're not trying to teach students to test or prep students for a test," Fields said, adding that higher test scores will naturally follow teaching the subject matter.
He said that he is "hopeful" that the state Department of Education's new curriculum roll out in the fall of the Georgia Performance Standards will boost test scores.
Henry's highest test scores were Luella High School and Patrick Henry High School with 100 in English and language arts, Union Grove High School with 99 in math and 95 in social studies and Dutchtown High School with 84 in science.
The highest scores in Clayton were Mt. Zion High School with 98 in English and language arts, Jonesboro High School with 94 in math, Lovejoy High School with 87 in social studies and North Clayton High School with 68 in science.
The Henry school system's lowest scores were the Evening High School with 92 in English and language arts, 91 in math and 42 in science and Henry County High School with 85 in social studies.
Clayton's lowest scores were Riverdale High School with 94 in English and language arts, 88 in math and 51 in science and North Clayton and Riverdale with 74 in social studies.
Henry remained the same or made gains at all schools and all subject areas, but one, a four-point slip at Henry County High in science. The largest gain was a 42-point gain at Evening High in the area of social studies. The school went from 50 to 92 percent passing.
Science scores lag throughout the state, but North Clayton High School has managed a 25-point increase. The increase moved the school from last in the system to first in the system in science.
North Clayton's first year principal Derrick Manning credited hard work and teamwork to the school's turnaround.
"From day one, I was in a little bit of awe," Manning said of the school he walked into. "I think our school is headed in the right direction. The test scores are going up. The morale is high."
The school also improved in each of the three other test categories as well. Jonesboro and Mt. Zion also improved or remained the same in each of the four categories.
"I think a leader has to be very very strong," Manning said. "You have to have very very high expectations. I'm not afraid to meet a challenge head on."
Manning said that he has created a culture of students and teachers who come to school every day expecting to work, which has started a "ripple effect" of success, making it popular to succeed.
The test results are the results of 11th grade first time test takers in regular school programs. If students don't pass the first time, they can retake the test as many times as necessary to pass.
Students must pass all portions of the Georgia High School Graduation Test to earn a high school diploma.