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Good news to be found in latest state school tests
Guest editorial
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The statewide results for the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests were released June 14 by the Georgia Department of Education. John Barge, the state school superintendent, is happy and hailed the good work of Georgia teachers.

There were bright spots in the results of the CRCT, a test that will soon disappear because the state is moving to a new platform of its own design after receiving a waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements. Next year, Georgia, along with 46 other states, will move to a “common core” academic platform and there will be yet another national assessment test of students (not yet ready) that will measure achievement.

The good news about the 2012 CRCT results is that more of the state’s students are “exceeding standards.” The scores for 2012 showed a one-year improvement in the percentage of students meeting and exceeding standards on 20 of the 30 content-area tests. In the third-grade measurement of reading, English/language arts, science and social studies, scores were better from between 3 and 7 percentage points for each subject over 2011 results with reading at the top of the scale. English/language arts, math and science are 3 percentage points higher than 2011, and social studies is up 4 percentage points. Grade four saw similar results of between 6 percentage points and 1 percentage point — with the exception of math, that didn’t move the needle over last year.

For fifth-grade test-takers, the bugaboos were math and reading. Reading dropped when compared to 2011 scores by 2 points and math by 5 points. Sixth- and seventh-grade scores saw improvements in all areas, while the eighth-grade scores saw a dip of 3 points in English/language arts and a constant in math.

Barge recognized that there is still work to do. “While I am pleased to see an increase in the majority of exams,” Barge said, “I am concerned about those where we saw decreases or no change at all.” He has reason for concern. Next year, the curriculum and tests get harder. Fortunately, the new standards will rely less on high-stakes testing. Other criteria will be introduced to measure how well students are learning and how well schools are performing.

This statewide look at 2012 scores is a precursor to system- and school-level results that will be released shortly. While we all wish for an education silver bullet, none exists. We have to celebrate the small victories along the way.

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