The House Democratic leadership and party Chairwoman Jane Kidd demanded Gov. Sonny Perdue appoint an independent investigator to find out when Superintendent Kathy Cox knew pupils would fare poorly on the test and what could have been done to prevent the confusion and controversy that followed.
"Clearly, the system has failed our students and our teachers," said House Minority Leader DuBose Porter, D-Dublin. "We want to get to the bottom of what caused this problem."
Almost 40 percent of Georgia eighth-graders failed the state's math test, which they must pass to advance to high school. Between 70 percent and 80 percent of sixth- and seventh-graders failed the social studies exam.
Ms. Cox vacated the social studies results but stood by the math test, saying the higher failure rate was to be expected as the state moves to a new, more rigorous curriculum.
But Rep. Calvin Smyre, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, slammed the department's public response as "damage control and political spin."
"The superintendent and her department have blamed the school systems, the principals, the teachers and, in some instances, even the students," said Mr. Smyre, D-Columbus. "We know that the blame lies much closer to the top. It lies within the leadership of the Department of Education."
Mr. Perdue's office brushed off the Democrats' comments.
"This is simply more politics over substance from Democrat leaders," press secretary Bert Brantley wrote in an e-mail. "Democrats continue to ignore the progress that our students have made, including higher SAT rankings, improving graduation rates and across-the-board increases in (state test) scores where the new curriculum has been in place for more than one year."
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