Originally created 12/15/01

Scores show struggling pupil groups

ATLANTA - Last month, 41 public schools - including several in Richmond County - made Georgia's list of campuses that are failing based on new accountability standards.

But hundreds more fall short when test scores are broken down by race, gender, ethnicity and other factors. And those numbers will help decide which schools need an extra boost - or a major overhaul - when the accountability rules take full effect in 2004.

At the 41 schools, at least 70 percent of the fourth-, sixth- and eighth-graders who took the state's Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests in 2001 failed.

In that same year, 195 schools had at least one racial or ethnic group in which more than 70 percent of pupils failed one of the tests. Black pupils failed at 126 schools, while Hispanic pupils failed at 72 schools.

Too many special education pupils failed at 702 schools. In all, 1,463 schools had students who took the tests.

State Board of Education members, who saw the numbers this week, said they were surprised.

"This is very informative, but it is also shocking in many ways," said board member Bruce Jackson of Atlanta, who called numbers among black pupils, special education students and boys particularly troubling.

More than 70 percent of boys failed the English, reading or math test at 80 schools, compared with 37 schools for girls.

Davis Nelson, the director of the governor's Office of Education Accountability, said it's not yet clear how much weight each of those categories will carry when schools begin receiving a letter grade.

A statewide panel will meet next month to begin hashing out the details, he said. Among the issues they'll consider is whether all categories should be treated equally or if some - race, for example - should be weighed more heavily than others.

"All of those subgroups have to be used in some fashion," said Mr. Nelson, who presented the numbers to the board Thursday. "(But) it's two years away, so we have not looked at what weight each one is going to carry."

Another issue they'll look at is whether the size of a subgroup should be considered.

"You have to play with that thing," Mr. Nelson said. "If one of your groups is only eight to 10 kids, can you look at it the same way?"

Starting in 2004, schools will receive a letter grade based on results from the CRCT and other standards. The plan is an element of Gov. Roy Barnes' 2000 education-reform initiative, which increased teacher and school accountability.

Already, 223 of Georgia's roughly 1,800 public schools have requested school improvement teams to help them prepare for the tests, which will go a long way toward deciding which teachers and schools are rewarded for their performance and which need help.


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