Madison County News

May 29, 2008

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The CRCT ‘After-math’
Like the rest of the state, Madison County feeling the summertime math blues
Madison County and the rest of the state will be looking at crammed summer school classrooms in the wake of high failure rates on the CRCT math exam.
According to unofficial numbers from the Madison County Schools central office, about one out of every two MCMS eighth graders failed the CRCT math test and will have to retake it. Statewide, 40 percent of the eighth graders failed the test.
“When you’re looking at basically at half your students, that’s very concerning,” Madison County Schools curriculum director Jane Fitzpatrick said.
School leaders started gearing up for the summer session as soon as the bad news hit. Official calculations for Madison County scores haven’t been provided by the state yet. But based on initial reports provided by the state, Fitzpatrick — unofficially — estimated that 49 percent of Madison County eighth graders didn’t meet standards.
“We started our remediation before the students left,” Fitzpatrick said. “As soon as we got these scores back, we started with what we call our bootcamp.”
The boot camp is aimed at giving students additional help before summer school, which starts Monday. Math re-tests will be administered June 13, the last day of summer school. Eighth grade students must pass the math exam to be promoted to ninth grade.
The controversial math exam has parents in Georgia fuming.
The state introduced a more stringent math curriculum and then issued a different math test this year for the CRCT. As a result, eighth grade test takers struggled.
“All those new things hitting at one time is not a good plan,” Fitzpatrick said.
She said a dip was expected in this year’s math scores, “but no one anticipated that the numbers were going to be like they were.”

The disturbing math scores are only part of what’s been a CRCT fiasco this year in Georgia.
State-wide failure rates in social studies in sixth and seventh grades were so high — between 70 and 80 percent — it prompted state school superintendent Kathy Cox to nullify those scores.
Locally, 58 percent of Madison County sixth graders and 83 percent of seventh graders failed the CRCT social studies exam, according to Fitzpatrick’s unofficial numbers.
“We’re right in there with the rest of the state,” Fitzpatrick said. “As they said, it was a nose-dive, not a dip.”
A vague social studies curriculum, which left students unprepared for specific questions on the CRCT test, is being blamed for the poor showing in social studies in the state.
Fitzpatrick said the scores show something was amiss with the test.
“When you have numbers like that and it’s all over the state, there has to be something wrong with the tests … It’s just common sense. Something didn’t match-up,” she said.
A 20-person state panel was scheduled to convene this week to investigate just what went wrong on the social studies CRCT. Fitzpatrick said it would have been nice if this could have been addressed earlier.
“It’s just a shame that we have to wait until there’s a total debacle,” she said.
Madison County Schools superintendent Dr. Mitch McGhee said the state’s CRCT situation “is a mess” and hopes those at the state level will take the proper steps to prevent future dilemmas like this.
“I hope they make sure to align these tests with the curriculum,” McGhee said.
He added that the scores don’t reflect the instruction at Madison County schools.
“When you have that big of a difference … there’s something wrong with the test,” McGhee said.
Cox said in a conference call that the problems with the social studies scores were unrelated to the problems with math scores.
But Fitzpatrick said there’s a disconnect somewhere if 40 percent of eighth graders are failing statewide.
“(The issues) might be different, but they still certainly exist,” Fitzpatrick said. “It cannot be all teaching and student involvement. There’s got be other issues, whether it be the curriculum, the test or the combination of the two for these scores to be like this. It just doesn’t stand to reason.”
Teachers and students have some intense work do to between now and June 13 in preparation for the math re-tests.
Teachers have been working through post planning to prepare for summer school.
“So as soon as those students hit the door Monday morning, we’re ready to go … We need to get down to business immediately,” Fitzpatrick said.
Arranging for additional summer math teachers to accommodate the higher volume of students was quite a chore for county school leaders. Several teachers have already planned their summer vacation at this point.
McGhee said the situation “is certainly pressing us,” adding that the system might have to employ the services of recently-retired teachers who still have certification to handle some of the summer- time instruction.
Fitzpatrick said many schools are in the same predicament.
“You have to find funding at the end of fiscal year to pay for more teachers to come in,” she said. “You just have to change your plans all the way around.”
Adding to the obstacles was the fact that the middle school is relocating a new building, meaning that MCMS summer math classes will be held at the high school. But with more students having to take summer classes, more rooms at the high school had to be reserved.
The parents of these students seem to taking the news as well as could be expected, according to Fitzpatrick. She said she’s even heard from some parents whose children earned A’s and B’s in math but have to re-take the exam.
“They have been very nice once their questions were answered, and understandably, they had questions,” Fitzpatrick said.
Eighth graders will re-take the test on a Friday the 13th, but Fitzpatrick is hoping for good luck on that day.
She said she’s confident in the summer school plan and notes that Madison County usually has a good re-test passing rate. Results are expected in early July.
“A lot of our students were close,” she said. “It wasn’t that they were way down in the valley somewhere. It was just that they didn’t quite make that mark.”
“We have a lot of confidence that the kids will do well on the re-takes,” McGhee said.


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