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Feds give schools a break on math tests

As a parent of a child who did exceedingly well on the math portion of the CRCT, I feel this is doing more harm than good.  Why not make ALL of the students rise to the level of those who did pass the Math Test.
This is as bad as the social studies fiasco where the scores were thrown out, at my daughter’s middle school the students scored well above the score needed to pass the test on science, social studies and math, many students had perfect scores and this was from 6th - 8th grade!  If the schools are not performing as expected and there are some or the majority of students are passing let’s address the teaching methods and add more afterschool and before school tutoring. Extra assignments to help them understand don’t just lower the bar! Why aren’t all teachers told to teach more than what is on the CRCT?  I believe therein lies the problem. 

Middle schools expected to benefit from waiver

By LAURA DIAMOND
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/05/08

Elementary and middle schools have a better chance of meeting the testing goals required under federal law because fewer students must pass math exams than previously expected, State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox said Thursday.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires states to test students annually in reading and math and that a certain percentage of students pass these exams. Schools that repeatedly fail face increasingly severe sanctions, ranging from offering free tutoring to a possible takeover by the state.

Georgia’s annual Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests assess whether students learn what the state says they need to know. Scores from these exams also help determine whether schools meet the federal law’s testing goals, called adequate yearly progress and commonly referred to as AYP.

More students failed the math tests this year because the state has been phasing in a new curriculum that covers more new material and less review than before.

The state overhauled its curriculum in response to years of criticism from education experts who said it was too weak.

This was the first school year teachers taught the new lessons in eighth grade. Eighth-graders took harder math tests to match the more difficult material. They struggled on the exam, with about 38 percent failing, according to preliminary scores.

The harder math tests and curriculum led Cox to ask the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver in February to lower the percentage of students that must pass the exams. The new goal would be higher than what schools had to reach last year, but less than what was planned.

The request was denied, but Cox redid the application and sent it in about a week and half ago. Cox received tentative approval Tuesday from U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. Cox will discuss the change with local superintendents during a conference call this morning.

“If you increase the rigor of a test, it might take a little longer to get all children up to that higher level of proficiency,” Cox said Thursday. “We don’t want to penalize schools knowing they got kids to a higher level of math than they ever did before.”

The state expects to receive an official letter from the federal government soon, and Cox is scheduled to ask state Board of Education members to adopt the change during next week’s meeting.

The waiver only affects how schools will be graded under the federal law. It does not affect consequences students face under state law, so thousands of students who failed the fifth- and eighth-grade math CRCT exams must pass retests for promotion.

Linda Mitchell, who oversees testing for Gwinnett County Public Schools, said the change will give schools a greater shot at making AYP. The state will release which schools met the federal testing goals in July.

“AYP becomes a very public measure of a school and that makes it very hard for schools that miss the goal,” Mitchell said. “Our schools are teaching more challenging material and our students are taking more challenging tests, so it is wonderful to have more time to get kids up to the level where we expect them to be.”

Middle schools will benefit most from the change, Mitchell said.

The federal law reviews a school’s score for all students and for subgroups of students, including minorities, low-income students, children learning English and those with disabilities. Middle schools are larger than elementary schools and have more subgroups, Mitchell said. If just one subgroup fails, the entire school fails.

Many middle schools likely would have missed testing goals this year because of low math scores from eighth-graders. The original math passing goal was supposed to be 66.7 percent, but only 62.2 percent of eighth-graders statewide passed, according to preliminary scores. Average passing rates for other elementary and middle school grades were above the 66.7 percent target.

The new target requires 59.5 percent of students in each grade to pass the math test, a slight increase from the 58.3 percent target in place last year.

While Georgia was justified to request the change, the state made things more difficult for schools in years to come, said Jack Jennings, president and CEO of the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy. The group tracks the federal testing law’s implementation.

“They are delaying the day of reckoning,” Jennings said. “They are trading off lower levels now for much higher targets in later years. It will be a struggle for the state to attain that achievement.”

The federal law requires states to gradually increase their passing rates so that 100 percent of a school’s students must pass by 2014. Georgia will keep the math passing rate at 59.5 percent for two years. Starting in 2010 the target will increase by 8.1 percentage points each year until reaching 100 percent in 2014.

Cox said future targets are reasonable. She said students will perform better on the tests the more time teachers have with the new curriculum.

Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests for a school to reach federal goals. The state received permission to lower the bar to 59.5 percent, which is a slight increase for what schools had to meet last year.

TESTING GOALS

The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to test students in grades 3-8 annually in reading and math and that a certain percentage of students pass these exams. The law punishes schools that repeatedly fail. This year’s target would have required 66.7 percent of students to pass the math Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests for a school to reach federal goals. The state received permission to lower the bar to 59.5 percent, which is a slight increase for what schools had to meet last year.

Here are the percentage of students in grades 3-8 statewide that passed this year’s math test, according to preliminary results:

Grade Percent pass
3 70.9
4 70.1
5 71.6
6 69.3
7 79.8
8 62.2
Source: Georgia Department of Education


Posted by loni on 06/06 at 07:26 AM in Blogging

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