Photo by Heather Middleton
By Jeylin White
High school students across Georgia have made marked improvements in virtually every subject area covered by End-of-Course Tests (EOCTs), according to the State Department of Education.
The DOE released state-level results of this year's tests this week, and said it anticipates the release of district-level results by the end of August.
According to the DOE, the results show that students improved their performance on seven of the eight tests. In comparison to 2010, students showed significant improvements in Biology, Physical Science, and U.S. History, state officials said. Ninth-grade EOCT scores also improved in Literature, American Literature, and Economics.
The DOE reported that 76 percent of students met or exceeded state standards in Physical Science, which is up 4 percentage points from last year. Scores for Biology show that 70 percent of students met or exceeded standards, and 66 percent met or exceeded standards in U.S. History, both numbers also represent 4-point gains over the previous year.
"We are very pleased with the improvement Georgia students have shown on the EOCTs," said State School Superintendent John Barge. "I have always believed that the EOCT is a better indicator of a student's grasp of the content, and this year-to-year improvement is encouraging."
DOE data also indicated that 61 percent of Georgia's students met or exceeded standards in Mathematics I, which was a 3-point decrease from last year. In contrast, students showed a 3-percentage-point improvement in Mathematics II, with 55 percent meeting or exceeding standards.
Concerned about math scores, the State Board of Education, in March, approved Superintendent Barge's recommendation to allow local districts to teach mathematics using, either the fairly new "integrated," or the "discrete delivery method."
"Our Mathematics EOCT results are showing us that some students are struggling with more rigorous standards, which underscores the need for different instructional delivery methods," said Barge.
He added that, while Mathematics II results increased, they are still significantly lower than other content areas. "The rigor of the Georgia Performance Standards, however, positions us well as we transition to the Common Core State Standards that contain the same level of rigor found in our existing standards."
Meanwhile, those entering ninth-grade in the 2011-2012 school year will not be required to take the Georgia Graduation Test, which will be replaced with the EOCTs. The State Board of Education approved a plan, back in April, to phase out the Graduation Test, which has been in place since the mid-1990s.
The test is administered to students during their junior year, in an effort to test them on everything they have learned in English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.
The phasing-out process should be complete at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. For students entering in as ninth-graders in the upcoming school year, the EOCTs will count as 20 percent of their final grade, which is up from the current 15 percent for these tests, according to Georgia Department of Education Spokesman Matt Cardoza.
The EOCTs were created in 2000, as part of the state's A-plus Education Reform Act, said Cardoza. He added that the EOCTs are taken at the end of eight high school courses: Math I, Math II, Ninth-grade Literature, American literature, Biology, Physical Education, U.S. History, and Economics.
Cardoza said there is some flexibility for students who are freshmen, sophomores and juniors this [school] year. If a student fails a section of the graduation test during the spring semesters in 2012, 2013 and 2014, he or she can substitute that section of the test with a passing score on one of the EOCTs from that subject area, he said.
Currently, the English/Language Arts and Mathematics sections of the test are factors in determining whether a school has met the academic requirements for achieving AYP status (or annual yearly progress).
The status is used to indicate whether schools, and districts are meeting the mandates of the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act. According to Cardoza, eventually, Math and Literature on the EOCTs will be used as factors for determining AYP status.