Richmond and Columbia counties made gains on the state's high-stakes graduation tests that students must pass in order to earn a high school diploma, according to preliminary results released Thursday.
Richmond County improved on three sections of the Georgia High School Graduation Tests and held its ground on the fourth. Columbia County improved on all four.
The scores are for juniors taking the test for the first time.
"We remain committed to increasing the number of students who perform at the advanced levels on standardized tests," Richmond County Superintendent Dana Bedden said in a news release. "We are also providing more opportunities for students next year to take Advanced Placement Courses so that they are better prepared for the rigor and challenges of college work and/or the workplace."
The results in Richmond County include a 5 percent gain in social studies and a 1 percent gain in science, the section of the test that has given students the most difficulty in previous years. In 2006, only 57 percent of Richmond County juniors passed science on the first attempt. This year, 80 percent passed.
Test-takers faced additional challenges this year because the English and science sections were aligned to the state's new, more rigorous curriculum.
Richmond County Science Coordinator Stacey Mabray was happy to hear the results.
"My gut reaction? Woohoo," she said by phone.
The new curriculum stresses the importance of doing science and not just reading about it, and that's paying off in the test scores, Ms. Mabray said.
Columbia County officials also welcomed the rise in test scores.
"I think we've done a remarkable job," said Columbia County Associate Superintendent Lauren Williams. "We couldn't be more pleased."
While Harlem High performed worse than the county's other high schools, it produced the largest gains in each subject. The school gained five percentage points in language arts and seven points in math, social studies and science.
The only other Columbia County school to improve in every subject was Lakeside High.
Evans showed no improvement in language arts and math and dropped a percentage point in social studies and science.
Greenbrier gained a percentage point in math but lost the same amount in language arts and social studies. Science scores remained the same.
Richmond County did not release individual school results Thursday, despite requests from The Augusta Chronicle, and won't until those results are official.
"The system results were only released in order to accommodate the numerous requests currently being made by the media, and they are a good ballpark of how the system performed," Director of Public Information Louis Svehla said in an e-mail.
The scores locally reflect the state trend. On Wednesday, the Georgia Department of Education released statewide results showing improvement on all four sections of the test.
Students who didn't pass all sections of the graduation test can retake the ones they failed as many times as necessary until passing. Students must also pass the Georgia High School Writing Test to earn a diploma.
Students who don't pass the tests receive a certificate of completion rather than a diploma.
PRELIMINARY TEST RESULTS
SYSTEM - MATH - ENGLISH AND LANGUAGE ARTS - SCIENCE - SOCIAL STUDIES
Richmond County - 91 - 87 - 80 - 79
Columbia County - 98 - 95 - 95 - 94
Georgia - 94 - 90 - 87 - 87
SCHOOL - MATH - ENGLISH AND LANGUAGE ARTS - SCIENCE - SOCIAL STUDIES
Evans High School - 97 - 94 - 93 - 92
Greenbrier High School - 99 - 96 - 96 - 96
Harlem High School - 96 - 91 - 93 - 90
Lakeside High School - 98 - 96 - 96 - 96
Sources: Richmond County and Columbia County boards of education