The increasing pass rate on the Georgia High School Graduation Test means fewer students are struggling to grasp basic concepts in math, English, science and social studies, schools Superintendent Kathy Cox told the state school board Wednesday.
The data released by Cox shows that 90 percent of juniors passed the English language arts portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Test this year. That's up from 89 percent last year.
In math, the rate rose from 93 to 94 percent. Social studies is up from 86 to 87 percent, and science increased from 86 to 88 percent.
Cox attributed the increase to a tougher curriculum, beefed up training for teachers and the "sweat equity" of educators.
"It's not some fancy reform, and it's not some new-fangled computer program," Cox said. "It's about hard work."
The test scores show that the gap between minority and white students is narrowing in some areas.
On the science test, 76 percent of black students passed, compared to 41 percent in 2005. In social studies, the passing rate of Hispanic students grew from 68 percent in 2005 to 76 percent this year.
Cox said she's hopeful the test scores mean that Georgia's graduation rate will increase again. Last year, the percentage of students getting diplomas rose from 72 to 74 percent. That's up from the 65 percent of high school students who received diplomas in 2004.
All high school students have to pass the test to get a diploma in Georgia. Students first take the test as a high school junior and can retake the test as many times as they need.
Students who don't pass receive a "certificate of attendance" rather than a diploma.