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CRCT analysis: All NCSS schools cleared

COVINGTON -- All of the schools in the Newton County School System are in the clear after a state analysis of the 2009 spring Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

After several schools and their administrators around Georgia were accused of changing their students' answers on the CRCT to get better results, the Governor's Office of Student Achievement launched a statewide analysis of results to see if any other schools were guilty of the same.

The GOSA teamed up with CTB-McGraw Hill, the state's testing vendor in charge of developing and scoring CRCT exams, to conduct an erasure analysis on schools' CRCTs. It examined the number of wrong answers that had been changed to right answers on student answer sheets in reading, English-language arts and math.

"The analysis looked on average at 125,000 test takers in every subject and grade level at which the CRCT was administered and provided a clear picture of typical student test behavior against which all schools could be compared," said GOSA Executive Director Kathleen Mathers in a press release Wednesday. "Our recommendations are intended to eliminate future problems and help students who have been adversely affected by test tampering."

After the analysis, the state placed schools in categories based on their percentage of flagged classrooms, or those with a high number of erasure marks that resulted in correct answers.

According to the GOSA, 80 percent of Georgia's elementary and middle schools fell into the "clear" category, meaning that less than 6 percent of the classes within a given school were flagged; 10 percent placed in the "minimal concern" category, with 6 to 10 percent of classes flagged; 6 percent were determined to be in the "moderate concern" category, with 11 to 24 percent flagged; and 4 percent were termed "severe concern," with 25 percent or more of classes flagged for wrong-to-right changes.

"Important decisions will be made from this data that are critical to the future of Georgia's children," said GOSA Deputy Director Eric Wearne in the release. "Overall, Georgia's schools are performing well and continue to excel in student achievement."

In Newton County, all of its schools were deemed "clear." Schools ranged from having 0 to 2.9 percent of their classes flagged.

"Newton County takes testing very seriously and is sincerely interested in whether or not students have made academic progress," said Dr. Linda Hayden, associate superintendent for curriculum, instruction and technology at NCSS. "Credit for our system being 'clear' goes to many people who have done a great job with supervising testing for Newton County -- Dr. (Sheila) Thomas, former testing director, the assistant principals and testing coordinators at each school, teachers who administer the tests and principals who take testing seriously."

Georgia students in third, fifth and eighth grades must meet or exceed standards on the CRCT in reading and fifth- and eighth-grade students also must meet or exceed the standards in math to be promoted to the next grade level.

The 2009 CRCT results showed that some NCSS schools achieved high pass rates in several subjects, but a majority of the pass averages were below state averages.

CRCT data, as well as other factors like attendance, determine a school's Adequate Yearly Progress, as required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Schools and school systems in Georgia that don't meet AYP may be place on the state's Needs Improvement list, depending on their pass performance. In 2009, NCSS as a whole met AYP, but Ficquett Elementary, Cousins and Indian Creek middle and Challenge Charter Academy did not; Middle Ridge Elementary and ICMS remain on the state's Needs Improvement list.

A complete list of Georgia schools and their CRCT analysis results are available on the GOSA Web site, www.gaosa.org.