Clayton County students test scores rise

By Jeffery Whitfield

Test scores released on the Georgia Office of Student Achievement's 2004-2005 annual report card revealed mixed results for the Clayton County School System. The report card, available on the Georgia Department of Education's Web site, www.gadoe.org, features student scores for statewide exams such as the Georgia High School Graduation Test, Georgia High School Writing Test, Criterion Referenced Competency Test, Middle Grades Writing Assessment and End-of-Course tests. Scores for national tests such as the SAT, ACT and Advanced Placement exams also are included.

System-wide results for 2004-2005 reveal that the percentage of 11th graders passing the Georgia High School Graduation tests for the first time in county schools grew slightly over results from the previous year. The school system reported higher scores than the state averages on all four areas of the graduation tests. One exception was the science portion, in which the county and state averages were each 50 percent of students passing the exam.

The exam tests students in areas of English/language arts, mathematics, social studies and science. Thirty-eight percent of students in county schools passed the English/language arts section, compared with 33 percent from the year before. Fifty-six percent of students passed the mathematics portion compared to 49 percent from the previous year. Fifty-percent of students passed the science area compared to 48 percent from 2003-2004. However, the number of students passing the social studies section of the exam fell 5 percent from the previous year's scores. A total of 52 percent passed the exam, compared to the 57 percent who passed the year before.

Scores among all ethnic groups also rose slightly in all areas of the exam with the exception of social studies, in which scores fell slightly from results reported from the year before. Ethnic groups consist of Asian, black, white, Hispanic and multiracial students.

According to the Governor's Office of Student Achievement Web site, current high school diploma requirements mandate that a student must achieve a passing score in each subtest of the GHSGT as well as on the Georgia High School Writing Test. If a student does not pass a subject's test, then they are retested in that subject area, the Web site said. A student has multiple opportunities to take each subject's test. The four core subject tests are scored Fail, Pass, and Pass Plus. The scale scores on the GHSGT range from 400 to 600.

The percentage of students in the school system passing the writing test fell one percent from the previous year's results. Eighty-seven percent of passed the test in 2004-2005 compared to 88 percent that passed the exam the year before. The percentage of students passing the writing test was slightly less than the state average. Eighty-nine percent of students statewide taking the test passed the writing exam.

Scores among ethnic groups varied. Seventy-seven percent of Asian student passed the exam, compared with 80 percent in 2003-2004. The percentage of black students passing the exam, or 88 percent, remained the same from the previous year's results. The number of Hispanic students passing the exam fell slightly, from 73 percent in 2003-2004, to 69 percent last year. The number of white students passing the exam last year was 92 percent, a two percent drop from 2003-2004. The percentage of multiracial students passing the exam, or 95 percent, was the same last year and in 2003-2004.

Results were mixed for students in Clayton County taking the CRCT, though scores rose for the majority of students. The CRCT, administered to students in grades one through eight, tests students in grades one and two in areas of reading, English/language arts and math. Students in grades three through eight take exams in areas of reading, English/language arts, mathematics, social studies and science.

According to the Governor's Office of Student Achievement Web site, the Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, or the CRCT, are state-mandated end-of-year assessments. The tests are designed to measure how well students have mastered the content and skills and are unique to the state's Quality Core Curriculum in areas of reading, English and language arts and mathematics in grades one through eight and science and social studies in grades three through eight. Tests are scored out of a maximum of 450 points. Students with scores below 300 are considered as those that “do not meet standard,” those scoring 300 to 349 “meet standard,” and those scoring 350 to 450 are considered to “exceed standard.”

Results from end-of-course-tests, administered to high school students, have not yet been posted and is still being prepared for publication, the Web site said. End-of-course tests are administered to students in grades nine through 12 in subjects including mathematics, social studies, science and English/language arts.

The Middle Grades Writing Assessment is given to eighth grade students in winter. The test aims at allowing students to demonstrate their writing ability by responding to a selected topic. Scores rose among all students taking the MGWA in Clayton County schools seven percent compared to results reported from one year before. The percentage of students passing was 77 percent last year compared to 70 percent in 2003-2004. The number of students in Clayton County schools passing the MGWA exceeded the number of students statewide that passed the exam. Seventy-three percent of students taking the test statewide passed the MGWA in 2004-2005.

The percent of students passing in each ethnic group, consisting of Asian, black, Hispanic, white and multiracial students, also rose in Clayton County.

Student papers are scored at the state level in accordance with scoring guidelines at one of three stages of mastery: Below Target, for scale scores from 300 to 348, On Target, or scale scores from 349 to 367, and Exceeding Target, for scale scores of 368 to 400.

School Board spokesman Charles White said, “There are a lot of good things about the report card. It provides a place for statistical data to be provided to the public.” But he added that the report card is not always a true picture of what the school system is doing.

He said there are a number of initiatives that the school system started last year that were not reflected in the report.