Overall scores drop; science shows progress

Most schools in Richmond and Columbia counties slipped on the state's high school exit exams, a series of high-stakes tests students must pass in order to graduate.

The only category in which both school systems showed improvement from the previous year was science.

Overall, Columbia County high school juniors outperformed their peers statewide on the Georgia High School Graduation Tests, while Richmond County did not.

THE TEST

All students pursuing a Georgia high school diploma must pass Georgia High School Graduation Tests in four content areas -- English/language arts, mathematics, social studies and science.

Students also must meet requirements in the Georgia High School Writing Assessment. These assessments ensure that graduates have mastered essential core academic content and skills.

The test is first given during the junior year, and students who fail can retake it until they pass.

Since 2004, English/language arts and math scores have been used to measure adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

The English/language arts and science tests are fully aligned to the state's new curriculum, the Georgia Performance Standards, for the first time this year.

These exams, which call for higher order thinking, test more rigorous material.

Because of the change, the Georgia Department of Education cautions against comparing last year to this year.

The social studies and mathematics graduation tests will be based on Georgia Performance Standards beginning in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

THE RESULTS ARE IN

Georgia High School Graduation Tests results

Scores can't be compared county to county or year to year. Richmond County released scores for all general education students, and Columbia County's scores reflect all of its students. Also, the Georgia Department of Education cautioned not to compare scores from one year to the next for tests administered under the state's new curriculum.


REACTIONS

The Columbia County test scores generally were lower than last year's. But Deborah Franklin, the school system's assistant superintendent of student learning, said it was difficult to compare the two.

"With the English language arts and the science, they are (scored under) the new GPS," she said.

She said the school system will continue to monitor "what teachers are doing" to ensure that students can meet the standards. She also said the school system would like to increase the percentage of students achieving advanced or honors proficiency.

Messages left for Richmond County school officials weren't immediately returned.

-- Betsy Gilliland and Greg Gelpi, staff writers