By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County high school juniors produced mixed results this year on the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT), with dramatic increases in some areas, decreases in others, and in still other areas, the results were flat when compared to 2007 scores.
Countywide, there were contrasting results in two revamped areas of the test, according to data provided by the Georgia Department of Education. The science and English/language arts sections of the tests were re-written this year to match the Georgia Performance Standards, instead of the older Quality Core Curriculum. The social studies and math sections will see the same changes in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Clayton County juniors made the biggest gains over their predecessors on the science section of the GHSGT, with the passing rate up 20 percentage points from 2007. Each Clayton high school saw double-digit increases on the science section of the test.
Across the state, scores increased by only eight percentage points, but six Clayton schools saw their passing rates jump by at least twice that amount. The increases ranged from 10 points at Mt. Zion High, to 27 points at Riverdale High.
"While we are pleased with the performance of our students on the Science test of the GHSGT, we know that we still have a lot to do, if we are to equal and exceed the state's performance on this test," said Katrina Miller, the district's coordinator of secondary science. "It should be remembered that this is a benchmark or baseline year for the Science test of the Georgia High School Graduation Test."
Miller speculated about several possibilities for higher achievement in science, including increased support from the school board, administrators staff and teachers throughout the implementation process for the new state science standards.
But she added: "It is important to note that this year's first-time test-takers are the first to have received three years of science instruction based on the Georgia Performance Standards."
Graduation test scores is one factor used to determine if a high school, and its school district, meet the standards for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Test participation, attendance and graduation rates are also factors.
While Clayton students had big gains in science, they and their statewide counterparts did not reap the same benefits on a re-written English/Language Arts section. The school system's results in English/Language Arts dropped by 10 percentage points, which is slightly better than a statewide 8 percentage point decrease.
The district downplayed the drop because of the changes to the test, however. "It is important to note that comparisons cannot be drawn between the 2008 ELA and science GPS scores and those of previous years that were based on the Quality Core Curriculum," said Dr. Chandra Johnson, the school system's executive director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment.
There was no increase or decrease in math, and the social studies results were down by a percentage point. Overall, 70 percent of juniors in Clayton County passed all four sections, which is required to earn a high school diploma in Georgia.
"Overall, these results are good news - most of Georgia's students are showing that they have the basic knowledge they need in order to graduate from high school," said State School Superintendent Kathy Cox in a statement. "However, the results of the two new GHSGTs show that we still have work to do in getting students fully prepared to be highly successful in college and the work world."
New data provided by the school system, and 2007 data from the Department of Education showed the following year-to-year results:
Even though the district math score stayed the same this year, the math scores were up at Riverdale High (7 percentage points); Lovejoy High (5 points); Jonesboro High (3 percentage points); Forest Park High , Mt. Zion Highl and Mundy's Mill High (2 percentage points each), and Morrow High (one percentage point).
North Clayton's passing rate dropped by 5 percentage points.
The range of passing rate decreases seen by all eight Clayton high schools ranged from 6 percentage points at Riverdale, to a 17 point drop at North Clayton. Forest Park, Jonesboro, Lovejoy and Mundy's Mill hovered around the similar statewide drop of 8 points. Both Morrow and Mt. Zion saw 13 point declines.
Riverdale and Lovejoy high schools led the district-wide improvement with gains of 27 and 25 percentage points respectively. Other leaders included Forest Park and Mundy's Mill (each school had passing rate increases of 22 points). Jonesboro High School saw its science passing rate increase by 17 points, while Morrow High trailed closely with a 16 point increase; North Clayton had an 11 point increase, and Mt. Zion saw its rate go up by 10 points.
The results were mixed for Clayton schools on the social studies section. Half of the schools showed slight gains in passing rates, while the other half had slight declines. Riverdale had the biggest gain (8 percentage points), while the increases at Forest Park, Jonesboro and Mundy's Mill ranged from 1-3 points. The decreases at Lovejoy, Morrow, Mt. Zion and North Clayton ranged from 2-5 points.