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End of Course Tests improve at state level

Photo by Ginny Sampson

Photo by Ginny Sampson

ATLANTA -- Students on average across Georgia are doing better on state-required End of Course Tests, according to the latest results, and local officials hope they can measure up with them.

The Georgia Department of Education reported Wednesday that the results of the spring 2011 Georgia EOCTs show student improvement in seven of eight tests.

In comparison to the results of the spring 2010 tests, students demonstrate improvement in biology, physical science and U.S. history. EOCT scores also improved for ninth-grade literature, American literature and economics, state officials said.

"We are very pleased with the improvement Georgia's students have shown on the EOCTs," said State School Superintendent John Barge in a press release. "I have always believed the EOCT is a better indicator of a student's grasp of the content, and this year-to-year improvement is encouraging."

The percentage of students who met or exceeded the standards for physical science, which was 76 percent, biology at 70 percent and U.S. history at 66 percent, all improved four percentage points over last year, results showed on average across the state.

The percentage of students who met or exceeded standards for Mathematics I, which was 61 percent, decreased three percentage points from last year, while the percentage of students who met or exceeded standards on the Mathematics II EOCT, which was 55 percent, increased three percentage points.

In March, the State Board of Education approved Barge's recommendation to allow local districts to teach mathematics using either the integrated or discrete delivery method. However, both Newton and Rockdale County public school systems have chosen to stick with the current integrated math since the state curriculum could change again in a couple of years in order to avoid confusion and extra costs.

"Our Mathematics EOCT results are showing us that some students are struggling with the more rigorous standards, which underscores the need for different instructional delivery methods," Barge said. "While our Mathematics II results increased, those scores are still significantly lower than other content areas. The rigor of the Georgia Performance Standards, however, positions us well as we transition to the Common Core State Standards that contain the same level of rigor found in our existing standards."

Local school systems have yet to release their local scores on EOCTs; they are expected to be released by Aug. 3. School-level results are expected to be available by Aug. 17.

In April, the state BOE approved a plan to phase out the Georgia High School Graduation Test, beginning with students who enter ninth grade for the first time in the 2011-12 school year. Instead, more of a focus will be put on EOCTs.

The Georgia DOE requires students to pass each of the five graduation tests, which include the subject areas of English/language arts, math, social studies and science that are given to 11th-graders for the first time each spring, as well as the Georgia High School Writing Test that is given to 11th-graders for the first time each fall, in order to earn a high school diploma.

For the 2011-12 school year, ninth-grade students will take EOCTs that will count for 20 percent of their course grades and must pass the GHSWT, while 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders will have EOCTs count for 15 percent of their course grades and must pass one EOCT in each of the four content areas or pass the corresponding subject of the GHSGT; they also must pass the GHSWT, according to the new state rules.

For the 2012-13 school year, ninth- and 10th-graders must pass the GHSWT, and EOCTs will count for 20 percent of their course grades, while 11th- and 12th-graders have the same rules as the year before.

For the 2013-14 school year, 11th-graders will be added to the group that has EOCTs count for 20 percent of their course grades while still passing the GHSWT, and seniors will continue to follow the previous year's rules.

In the 2014-15 school year, seniors -- or those students who will be ninth-grade students next school year -- must pass the GHSWT and have EOCT count for 20 percent of their course grades. But things will change again for younger students -- ninth, 10th and 11th graders that year will undergo Common Core Assessment Implementation in language arts and math under the state's new curriculum, and EOCT in science and social studies will count for 20 percent of their course grades.