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Clayton Schools gets mixed CRCT results

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Public Schools got a mixed bag when the Georgia Department of Education released the official school-level, district-level, and state-level results of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

The percentage of students passing the language arts section of the test improved over last year's results in the fifth-and eighth-grades, while third-graders moved up in math, according to data from the Department of Education released Tuesday. But the data also show that in third- and fifth-grade reading, the pass-rate percentages are down, while the percentages also slipped in fifth-and eighth-grade math.

The percentage of students passing the reading section in eighth-grade remained level at 91 percent, according to the department's data.

Clayton School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson said she was still reviewing the district's CRCT performance on Wednesday. She said she is already looking forward to seeing the school system improve under the leadership of new Superintendent Edmond Heatley, who began leading the district July 1.

"We made some gains, and we dropped in some areas, but as a board, we are going to focus on student achievement and moving the district forward," Anderson said. "No matter what the circumstances are, we're always going to focus on student achievement. We know we're going to see higher test scores in the future, because we have a superintendent in place that has made improving student achievement a priority."

Georgia Department of Education Spokesman Matt Cardoza said the CRCT scores are important for two reasons. The reading results for third-, fifth- and eighth-graders, and the math results for fifth- and eighth-graders are used for grade promotion and retention, he said. Cardoza said the scores are also used to determine whether schools and districts make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Some of the top-performing schools in the district for reading, language arts and math in the third- and fifth-grades were:

· Lake City Elementary School, where fifth-graders passed the language arts test at a rate of 96.9 percent, the highest percentage in the district for fifth-graders. Lake City's fifth-graders also passed the math portion of the CRCT at the district's highest rate for their grade level, at 95.9 percent.

· Lewis Academy of Excellence, where fifth-graders passed the reading exam at a rate of 97.6 percent, the highest rate for the district's fifth-graders. Third-graders at Lewis also passed the reading and language arts exams at rates of 92.2 percent each, the district's highest for third graders in both areas.

· Oliver Elementary School, where third-graders passed the math exam at a rate of 84.7 percent, the highest in the district for their grade level.

Among the top-performing middle schools for eighth-graders, Rex Mill Middle School led the way in math with 73.4 percent meeting or exceeding state standards.

Also among eighth-graders, Forest Park Middle School was the county's top performing middle school on the language arts exam, with 95.5 percent meeting or exceeding state standards.

M.D. Roberts Middle School was the county's top school in eighth-grade reading, with 93.9 percent meeting or exceeding standards.

Clayton County Public Schools Spokesman Charles White said the school system could not offer comment on the scores because officials who review data for the district, such as test scores, were unavailable on Wednesday. The district's offices are closed this week for a summer break.

Anderson said that in addition to AYP and grade-promotion issues, the test scores are also a concern in the county because officials from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) have told board members that improving student achievement is an area the 48,000-student school system needs to focus on.

After eight months of being an unaccredited school system, SACS re-instated Clayton County's accreditation in May, but on a two-year probationary basis. The school system's 60 schools also must undergo a full SACS review by the end of 2010.

Anderson said that because the school board is focused on making decisions that are based on data, more attention will be given in the future to data that comes into the system periodically, such as the results of benchmark tests that are given to students throughout the year.

"We plan on looking at benchmark test results to see where our students are, and where they need to improve," Anderson said.

According to Department of Education data for the Clayton County school system as a whole:

· In third-grade, 78.9 percent met or exceeded state standards on the reading portion of the CRCTs (a drop of 6.1 percentage points from a year ago); 77.4 percent met or exceeded standards on the language arts section (a drop of 1.6 percentage points); and 66.8 percent met or exceeded standards on the math section (an increase of 10.8 percentage points).

· In fifth-grade, 79.2 percent met or exceeded state standards on the reading portion of the CRCTs (a drop of 8.8 percentage points from last year); 85.5 percent met or exceeded state standards on the language arts portion (an increase of 1.5 percentage points); and 70.9 percent met or exceeded the standards for math (a drop of 4.1 percentage points).

· In eighth-grade, 91 percent met or exceeded state standards on the reading portion of the CRCTs (the same percentage from a year earlier); 89.3 percent met or exceeded standards on the language arts section (an increase of 4.3 percentage points), and 59.2 percent met or exceeded the standards on the math section (a decrease of 8.8 percentage points).

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On the net:

Georgia Department of Education: www.doe.k12.ga.us