The State response so far? Throw out the social studies test, the one that doesn't count in holding back students.
How long will will the madness continue?
By LAURA DIAMOND, ALAN JUDD, HEATHER VOGELL
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/21/08
No one disputes that Georgia's system for evaluating middle school students broke down this year.
How, and why, became the topics of debate Wednesday, as the state threw out the results of two social studies tests and education advocates questioned the validity of eighth-graders' abysmal math scores.
Several possible explanations emerged for failure rates that ran as high as 80 percent: New curriculum standards that may have been too vague. A complicated process for creating tests. Flawed test questions. Inadequate training in the new curriculum for teachers. An unrealistically high passing score. A long history of poor test performance by Georgia students.
Whatever the reason, the widespread failures are making Georgia's high-stakes testing even more contentious.
"Any time you have that level of failure almost statewide, you've got to go back and re-examine the test and re-examine everything associated with the test," said Herb Garrett, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association.
The math scores were particularly troubling, Garrett said: "There are a lot of youngsters who didn't meet the standards who are known by their local systems to be great math students."
Preliminary results from this year's Criterion-Referenced Competency Test have stirred up parents and educators all week. On Monday, state School Superintendent Kathy Cox announced that 70 to 80 percent of sixth- and seventh-graders had failed the social studies exam. About 40 percent of Georgia's 124,000 eighth-graders â€” or about 50,000 students â€” failed in math.
The math results are especially significant, since students who failed the test cannot advance to ninth grade. Those students will have to take the test again this summer, and many may have to forgo vacations to attend summer school.
Further, the test helps determine whether schools have met goals set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Schools that repeatedly fall short of the goals face potentially severe sanctions.
The high failure rates have frustrated parents, some of whom weren't satisfied by Cox's decision to invalidate the social studies scores.
"This is just crazy," said Karla Penn, whose daughter Kamille failed the eighth-grade math test by five points at Shamrock Middle School in DeKalb County.
"The whole thing started with this new curriculum, and it's just gotten worse. You have students who aren't familiar with this information and teachers who don't know how to teach it, so of course this all happened.
"This whole thing is a fiasco. How can they think this is fair to the kids?" . . . .