Ola Elementary School Principal Mitch Stephens had his head shaved recently, because his students improved their performance on the state's CRCT. The percentage of Ola students passing the standardized exam increased by at least 1percent in reading, math and language arts.
Henry County School System data reveals moderate gains overall in performance on Georgia's spring standardized tests.
While preliminary data shows marked improvement for the school system's eighth-graders on the reading, math, and social studies portions of the state's spring 2010 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT), school system reports reflect that other grade levels experienced only modest improvements, if any.
The data indicates that eight-graders passed the CRCT in reading at a rate of 97 percent, over 95.3 percent in 2009. They passed in math at a rate of 74.9 percent, compared to 67.2 percent, a year ago, while 70.9 percent of eighth-graders passed in social studies, versus 63.9 percent last year.
No gains were reported, however, on the CRCT among the school system's sixth-graders. That grade-level experienced a decline in pass rates in both math and science. Sixth-grade performance dropped in math by 1.5 percent, from 79 percent in 2009, to 77.5 percent in 2010; performance in science fell 3.7 percent, from 75.5 percent in 2009, to 71.8 percent in 2010.
School officials also reported only slight gains in math among fourth-graders. Year-over-year improvement for fourth-graders amounted to a 0.9 percentage increase in the number of students who passed the CRCT in math, from 75.2 percent in 2009, to 76.1 percent in 2010.
Data revealed that fourth-grade performance declined in the four other subject areas covered by the CRCT, in comparison to the previous year's performance.
Fourth-graders passed the reading portion of the CRCT at a rate of 89.7 percent, down from 91.2 percent in 2009. They passed English/language arts at 88.2 percent this year, down from 90.9 percent last year.
There was a 1.5 percentage point difference in the pass rates for fourth-graders in science at 80.5 percent on the 2010 CRCT, compared to 81.5 percent in 2009. The students dropped by 0.5 percent in social studies, passing at a 77.5 percent rate this year, compared to 78 percent in 2009.
"We try to find ways to work with that grade level," said Mitch Stephens, principal at Ola Elementary School, who added that he believes the fourth grade has been a concern in recent years, as reflected in a renewed focus on the state's new Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) curriculum.
In particular, he said, math — where Henry's fourth-graders made gains this year — has been an emphasized subject in school curricula state-wide. "Math was our area of emphasis," he said. "The state has moved to more of an application-style of math. It's very much an application and concepts-based curriculum with the GPS standards. We're trying to improve the way we teach it to try to improve their understanding of the concepts."
Teachers at Ola ramped up efforts this past year to improve scores in math, according to Stephens. He promised students last fall that he would shave his head if they, collectively, made improvements on their spring 2010 CRCT scores.
The principal said his school of 920 students ended up increasing its pass rate by more than 1 percent in each of the CRCT's five subject areas, which include reading, English/language arts, math, science, and social studies.
"We went up in all areas," he said." Our main three are math, language arts, and reading, and we went up at least one percentage point in all three areas.
"We're trying to make sure that we're teaching the curriculum correctly," he said, "and trying to teach it as many ways as we can, because there are students who learn so many different ways. And we need parents to be involved with the school in whatever way you can get involved, because that helps student performance."