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Georgia students excel on CRCT

John Barge

John Barge

Georgia students are making great strides on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT), as the 2012 state results indicate that more students are exceeding standards on the CRCT than last year, according to the results released Wednesday.

“Teachers are doing a great job teaching the more rigorous Georgia Performance Standards and they are to be applauded for raising expectations for all students.” said State School Superintendent John Barge.

The results showed a one-year improvement in the percentage of students meeting and exceeding on 24 of the 30 content-area tests. However, students across the state are still struggling in math and science.

When comparing the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standard, the report indicated the greatest gains were seen in fifth grade Social Studies by 6 percentage points, and eighth grade Science by 7 percentage points. However, there were decreases in four areas: Third-grade science, by 2 percentage points, fourth-grade mathematics by 1 percentage point, fifth- grade mathematics by 3 percentage points, and eighth-grade mathematics by 1 percentage point.

State law, Barge said, requires that students in third, fifth, and eighth grades meet or exceed expectations on the CRCT in reading in order to be promoted. Fifth- and eighth-grade students must also meet or exceed expectations on the CRCT in mathematics.

Matt Cardoza, director of communications for the department, said school-level data is not expected to be available until a month from now.

“While I am pleased to see an increase in the majority of the exams, I am concerned about those where we saw decreases or no change at all,” said Barge. “As we begin teaching the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards next school year, we know the curriculum and the tests will be more difficult, so we must continue to focus on successfully implementing the new standards.”

He said the state has been offering, and will continue to offer, teachers the necessary professional development to ensure they are equipped to deliver these new, more rigorous standards and to prepare our students for the next step.

The CRCTs are standardized exams designed to show if students have mastered the content included in the state's Georgia Performance Standards curriculum. They cover five subject areas: reading, English/language arts, math, science, and social studies.

However the U.S. Department of Education recently approved Georgia’s request for a waiver from the strict mandates of the No Child Left Act, which means the waiver will allow the state to begin using the Georgia College Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) to measure the effectiveness of schools and school districts in the state.

“We will not only look at standardized testing as being the key indicator for a school or students success,” said Barge.

School officials say the content and requirements of the “index” will vary, based on grade levels, but it will measure the extent to which a school district, and the state, are successfully making progress on several accountability indicators. Those indicators include: content mastery, student attendance, and readiness for the next level of preparation.

“Through [the] Georgia Career Ready Performance Index, we will be able to use multiple indicators to determine a school’s overall impact on our students,” said Barge, during a press conference Wednesday. He added that this approach will ensure that all students are provided with the necessary academic tools to compete globally, as well as to develop the career skills required in the working world.

The index — according to state officials — represents more than 18 months of work dedicated to ensuring rigorous statewide accountability, and will provide more insight into a school’s improvement, and a student’s individual progress, than current Adequate Yearly Progress calculations, under No Child Left Behind. A highlight from the waiver included for all the states to use all core content areas (state assessments) in the identification of Priority, Focus, and Alert Schools.

Earlier this year, the DOE identified 15 Clayton County schools as “Focus Schools.” The 15 Clayton schools on the list included: M.D. Roberts Middle, Mundy’s Mill High, Thurgood Marshall Elementary, Morrow Middle, Brown Elementary, Roberta T. Smith Elementary, Mount Zion High, James Jackson Elementary, Kemp Elementary, Anderson Elementary, Tara Elementary, Babb Middle, Riverdale Middle, Church Street Elementary, and Swint Elementary.

Cardozo said to be considered a “focus school,” a school has to have a graduation rate of less than 60 percent over a two-year period, and have a significant achievement gap between the highest-achieving student subgroup in the school, and the lowest-achieving one.

Nearly 160 schools in Georgia are being identified as Focus Schools. Focus Schools are also Title 1schools — schools in which a significant number of pupils are eligible for free or reduced lunches. The achievement gap between the subgroups, Cardoza said, is determined by student performance in subject areas such as math, science, language arts, reading, and social studies.

“We want to look at subgroup performances across the state, and see is there a particular subgroup performance that causes the drop in math in those three grade levels,” said Barge. “Or is there a particular region in the state were maybe training was not effective?”

He said in order to close the achievement gap between subgroups, more professional development and training needs to be offered to teachers. Educators, he added, should mimic other schools within their districts that are gaining positive results in closing the achievement gap.