BY KRISTI REED

Changes in the statewide Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) have resulted in an unintended side effect – lower scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), particularly on the math and social studies portion of the assessment. School officials must now determine if the poor results are due to tougher curriculum standards or if the problem lies with the assessments themselves.

The Georgia Department of Education estimates approximately 40 percent of students statewide failed this year’s math CRCT. The preliminary results for Barrow County Schools indicate a similar failure rate.

Over 400 Barrow County eighth graders will have to undergo remedial instruction and re-testing in order to be promoted to the ninth grade.

Math remediation will be delivered during the school day from May 27 through June 3. Students will retake the math section of the CRCT on June 4. Those students who do not pass the CRCT on the second attempt may be retained.

In a press release, Claire Miller, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, stated school administrators expected a tough transition during the first year of the new state performance standards.

“However, nobody anticipated these results since our teachers are working tirelessly to teach our students the standards that are required in the state curriculum,” Miller said. “Typically when you see a striking shift in student performance across the state it suggests that there are issues with the tests. I encourage people to visit our classrooms to see first-hand that our students are actively engaged in learning the state standards on a daily basis.”

The new standards were also implemented for the third and fifth grade tests this year. Barrow County preliminary results indicate approximately 34 percent of third graders and 33 percent of fifth graders will not meet state passing requirements.

Miller said early numbers show 295 third graders will have to retake the math portion of the CRCT. These students will attend a math instructional program June 16 to June 27 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Kennedy Elementary School. The students will retake the math CRCT on July 1.

CRCT scores in sixth and seventh grade social studies also dropped dramatically.

Georgia’s State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox said preliminary results indicated that only 20 to 30 percent of students statewide would pass the tests. Last year, the statewide pass rate was 83 percent in sixth grade and 86 percent in seventh grade.

On Wednesday, Cox said the CRCT results for sixth and seventh grade social studies would be invalidated because they were “implausibly low.”

In a release to school superintendents statewide, Cox wrote: “After intense scrutiny of the standards and the assessment, we have come to the conclusion that these scores are not trustworthy measures of student achievement in social studies. This decision is based primarily on the conviction that we need to revise the curriculum and the assessments to better evaluate the knowledge and skills that represent student achievement in social studies.”

Overall results for the CRCT must be certified by the Georgia Department of Education before being released to the public. Barrow County Schools will not be able to officially announce its results until mid-June.

While math and social studies results appear to be similar to those reported statewide, the school system has seen improvement in reading, science and language arts scores. Also, sixth and seventh grade math scores showed some improvement after switching to the more rigorous standards last year. School administrators hope this trend will continue next year.

In a written release provided by the school system, Dr. Ron Saunders, Barrow County Superintendent, stated: "We are very concerned with the statewide drop in the social studies and math scores. However, we believe this is a statewide problem due primarily to a dramatic increase from the State on qualifying "cut" scores. I can assure parents that our teachers, support staff and administrators at each school take each student's achievement seriously. We will be using our remaining days in the school year to focus on our students’ specific areas of weakness. I appreciate your understanding as we continue to deliver quality instruction to our most important people - our students.”

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