Westside High School had the highest score among the county’s tested schools at 36.5 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in Math II, which combines Algebra II, geometry and statistics into one course. That was a drop of 10 percentage points from 2011, however.
Glenn Hills High had the lowest performance with 3.6 percent of students passing, down 11.3 points from last year, according to the results.
Principal Wayne Frazier, who was transferred last week from Glenn Hills to Tubman Education Center, said the low scores are partially the result of incoming freshmen who didn’t acquire the necessary skills in middle school.
Frazier said 187 ninth-graders this year came to high school after failing the math portion of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests in eighth grade. His math department also had instability this year when almost 12 teachers transferred out of the school.
“I’ve got to get them to pass eighth-grade math and ninth grade at the same time,” Frazier said. “I was rectifying the math situation by getting those teachers out of there who didn’t have the strength that we needed to help the situation.”
Lynn Warr, the district’s executive director for high schools, agreed that the weakness in Math II has something to do with students not gaining skills before they get to high school.
She said teachers are using 15-day assessments to monitor progress. They also use Carnegie Learning Cognitive Tutor Software, an online learning assistant that guides students through tutorials and identifies weaknesses of each individual.
“Students are already at a deficit in math when they come into the ninth grade,” Warr said. “When you’re that far behind, it’s like you’re running a race, but you can’t win if you’re five miles behind.”
EOCT tests students in U.S. history, economics, ninth-grade literature, American literature, Math I, Math II, physical science and biology.
A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet and John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet schools did not test in economics or Math II because of scheduling of courses, Warr said. Davidson had 100 percent of students and Johnson had 96 percent, however, to meet standards in Math I, a course that combines algebra I, geometry and statistics and serves as the prerequisite to Math II.
The value of the EOCT increased this year as the state moved to phase out the Georgia High School Graduation Tests. Now EOCT counts for 20 percent of a student’s final course grade, compared with 15 percent previously, and acts as a final exam.
It will be the tool to measure a school’s progress under the new College and Career Readiness Performance Index being implemented this coming school year.
Although the district still struggles with the math curriculum, math coordinator Shelly Allen told the Richmond County Board of Education at its July 17 meeting that the achievement gap between the state and the district is closing.
She credited much of the improvement to the Carnegie Learning Cognitive Tutor Software Program.
Every high school in Columbia County showed improvements in Math II except Greenbrier High, which dropped 0.7 percentage point to 88.7 percent passing, the lowest performance in the county.
Two Columbia County schools had declines in Math I. Evans High fell 4.4 points to 80.3 percent passing, and Grovetown High fell 3.8 points to 77.3 percent passing – the lowest score for math I in the county.
Several schools showed gains in some subjects despite the struggles in math. T.W. Josey Comprehensive High School had a 16.7 percent increase in biology and 14-point increase in ninth-grade literature.
Josey Principal Ronald Wiggins attributed the increases to effective teachers and small-group instruction. The school is working with its elementary and middle feeder schools to analyze data and target trouble areas.
“That’s all because one of the biggest resources is the human resource,” Wiggins said. “I’ve got two biology teachers that are kicking butt. It’s not Ronald Wiggins. It’s not the leadership team. It’s people who can teach.”
At Cross Creek High School, 49.7 percent passed Math I – a 10-point increase – and 71 percent passed economics, a 11-point increase. Principal Jason Moore said much of the struggle with Math I and II had to do with the complexities of the system.
Even at a school such as Cross Creek, which had score increases in all subjects except U.S. history and Math II, successes are not over-celebrated. There is much work to do in the county, Moore said, but teachers and students should be rewarded for progress.
“Sometimes when you see only 1 or 2 percent (increases) ... you have to keep encouraging your staff,” Moore said. “You have to be a cheerleader in some respect because they do work hard ... We’re excited about the success we are having, but we’re still not satisfied.”