More pupils pass benchmark exam in Columbia Co.

The number of Columbia County pupils who passed a benchmark exam that determines their promotion increased this year.

The results of the Criterion-Reference Competency Test were released Tuesday. Administered in April, the CRCT tests pupils' reading and math skills.

Just 60 third-graders failed the reading portion of the exam this year, down from 87 in 2009.

Fewer fifth-graders failed the test in both reading and math. Last year, 125 failed reading and 205 failed math. This year, those figures dropped to 77 and 198, respectively.

Also, fewer eighth-graders will head to summer school to retake reading and math exams. Just 43 failed reading; 306 eighth-graders failed math.

In 2009, 68 eighth-graders failed reading and 317 failed the math portion.

The CRCT is used to determine a school's adequate yearly progress as set by federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

Pupils who failed have an opportunity to retake the test after remediation courses are offered during summer school.

Before Tuesday's meeting, the school board discussed the 2010-11 budget.

State lawmakers completed the 2010 legislative session last week. Legislators eliminated about $6 million in state funding for Columbia County schools.

To offset those loss in funding, school officials propose eliminating 18 teaching positions and two counselor positions; cutting nearly 60 paraprofessional positions through a hiring freeze; cutting the middle school Spanish program; cutting some middle school sports programs such as track, junior varsity softball, junior varsity baseball, soccer and tennis; adding five furlough days in the calendar for the next school year; and halting funding for long-term disability.

Even with the cuts, the system is still about $2.8 million short of meeting nearly $168 million in expected expenditures for next year.

The board will meet again at 8 a.m. Tuesday to further discuss the budget. They are scheduled to approve it June 8.

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