Early returns show that Bulloch County public school students posted better results on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests in 2012 than in the previous year, according to state data released Thursday.
Bulloch County students also posted higher passing rates than their counterparts statewide on most CRCT tested areas, the Georgia Department of Education data show.
“Our efforts of focusing have paid off,” said Brenda Kingery, the school district’s program specialist for testing data analysis and research. “Our reading performance is above the state in all grades (three through eight). Our English language arts performance is above the state in all grades, except fifth, which was only slightly under the state. Math has been a concern, but we see improvement, particularly in sixth and eighth grades.”
The greatest increases in passing rates posted by Bulloch County students were in eighth-grade math and sixth-grade science, both of which increased by 6 percentage points. The biggest drops were in fifth-grade science, down 6 percentage points from last year, and eighth-grade social studies, down 3 percentage points.
Dr. Fran Stephens, the interim superintendent, acknowledged those subject areas are ones that need improvement, especially with a new set of academic standards, and corresponding tests, that state officials acknowledge are tougher than the current ones.
“With the new Common Core State Standards and accountability measures, Bulloch County Schools, along with the rest of the state, will need to particularly address science and social studies performance,” Stephens said.
The Georgia Department of Education released statewide CRCT pass rates earlier this month. Stephens said that a glance at Bulloch County and state results shows the two are generally in line.
When the state data were released, Dr. John Barge, the state school superintendent, praised students’ and schools’ overall performance. But he also expressed concern about math, which saw lower pass rates in grades four, five and eight, and science, which fewer third-graders passed this year compared to 2011.
“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,” Barge said. “We have 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.”
Fifth- and eighth-grade math are of particular concern because students must pass those tests to be promoted to the next grade. State law also requires third-, fifth- and eighth-graders to pass the CRCT in reading to be promoted.
State and local officials noted that the data are preliminary and do not factor in students who took the test during the summer after failing on the first try, nor do the results remove students who were not enrolled in the district for at least 65 percent of the school year, or 117 days. School-level results are expected by July 12, state Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza said.
Stephens said all principals and assistant principals from across the school system will meet July 20 to “review testing data, address performance strengths and weaknesses, look at root causes, share strategies and develop action plans.”
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.