Pupils in both Richmond and Columbia counties made gains in the majority of 2013 Criterion Referenced Competency Tests subjects on their first try compared with first time test-takers last year, according to scores released Tuesday by the Georgia Department of Education.
They follow the statewide trend, in which elementary and middle school pupils across Georgia performed better in 24 out of 30 content areas.
“Our results this year on the CRCT show consistent progress,” State School Superintendent John Barge said in a news release.
“This is a testament to the great work our teachers are doing to take students to higher levels of learning.”
Richmond County made gains in 22 of 30 content areas but still lags behind Columbia County and the state as a whole. Columbia County improved in 20 areas but surpassed the state averages in every grade and subject.
The CRCT tests pupils in third through eighth grade in reading, English/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. By law, students in third, fifth and eighth grade must pass the reading portion to be promoted. Fifth and eighth grade students are also required to pass math to move on to the next grade.
Scores released Tuesday included state and district averages, and individual school results are expected next month.
Richmond County Superintendent Frank Roberson said analyzing individual school and student results is more instrumental for gauging progress, but on a district level, he looks for gradual improvements from year to year.
With a strong focus on regular teacher training sessions that keep instruction sharp, Roberson said the gains achieved in 2013 are encouraging.
“I always point to where the real work occurs and that’s between the classroom teacher and his or her students, and we’re just so very proud of the work that’s happening there,” Roberson said. “What we look for is individual student growth. We look at whether or not, after a year of instruction, whether or not students made progress. There should be movement toward the positive, even if it might come slowly.”
This year, gains were made in every subject in sixth and eighth grades. The largest improvement was a 12.6 percentage-point increase in sixth grade social studies to 56 percent passing in 2013. The passing rate in fifth grade math also increased 12 points, to 78 percent.
This year no grade level had fewer than 50 percent of its pupils passing any subject, compared with last year when sixth grade science and social studies had 45.4 and 43.4 passing rates respectively. The highest-achieving area this year was eighth grade reading, where 95.1 percent of pupils met or exceeded standards.
Columbia County had no grade or subject below its sixth grade science, which had an 86.4 percent passing rate. The largest gain was a 5.1 percentage point increase in seventh grade social studies to 92.2 percent passing.
The highest passing rate for the district was seventh grade reading at 97.9 percent passing.
CRCT results used to be the primary indicator to determine whether schools met adequate yearly progress under the 2001 No Child Left Behind legislation. Because Georgia received a waiver from certain provisions this year, the state developed an accountability system called College and Career Ready Performance Index.
CRCT results are now part of other indicators that determine an overall numerical score for schools and districts. Georgia released the first CCRPI results for districts and schools this year based on 2012 data.
Whatever the methodology, Roberson said the district will continue to improve on student achievement with one goal in sight.
“This system is going to become a world class institution, and we’re not going to stop until we get that done,” he said.