Most pupils who fail state exam advance

ATLANTA --- Very few of the pupils who fail a state exam required for promotion to the next grade are held back by schools, according to data released by the state Friday.

 

Detailed data from the Georgia Department of Education show about one in every 13 eighth-graders who failed the math portion of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests last year were barred from advancing to high school. One in 12 fifth-graders who didn't pass the math test in 2007 were prevented from advancing.

Pupils in first through eighth grade take the CRCT every year, but third-graders must pass the reading test and fifth- and eighth-graders must pass the reading and math tests to be promoted.

Pupils who don't pass the test the first time have one shot at retaking it but can appeal to a school-based committee to be promoted even if they fail the retest.

Last year thousands of students were promoted by committee -- which consists of one of the child's parents, the teacher and the principal -- despite failing the CRCT twice, state data show.

State education officials say pupils should be given every opportunity to be promoted to the next grade.

"We should look at students holistically," said state education department spokesman Dana Tofig. "The decision to hold a student back is a very serious decision, and it should not be based on one test."

The fates of last year's test takers offer a glimpse of what parents can expect as thousands of Georgia pupils head to summer school before taking the retest at the end of the summer. The state's eighth-grade math scores plummeted this year, which state officials have blamed on a more rigorous curriculum and a tougher test.

Preliminary data released by the state late last month show nearly 50,000 eighth-graders -- nearly 40 percent -- failed the math CRCT. That's about double the rate of last year, when 19 percent of the state's 126,000 eighth-graders -- roughly 24,000 children -- failed.

Preliminary data also show that 70 to 80 percent of sixth- and seventh-graders failed the social studies CRCT, which led state Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox to throw the scores out because she said the test was not an accurate measure of what children were taught. Social studies tests are not used for promotion.

The state is expected to release final CRCT data next week. Math and reading CRCT scores are among the measurements Georgia uses to meet federal No Child Left Behind standards.