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CRCT results display weaknesses in ability of yearly tests to measure sustained success

POSTED: July 13, 2014 12:00 p.m.

Barrow County Schools Superintendent Chris McMichael points to some slight reductions in the pass rates among the county’s highest succeeding schools as to why some teachers in gifted and advanced classes are concerned about how the state’s new test might solve the issue.

"The higher up you’re scoring, the harder it is to still have growth," he said. "Teachers are worried that the gifted kids are penalized because your growth can only go so high."

The new GA Milestones test will reportedly have a big emphasis on growth, according to state department releases.

And it’s easier to create a higher percentage of improvement at a lower performing school, or with lower performing students, than those already passing or exceeding at near 100 percent.

"It makes it hard," McMichael said.

He did add that the state had talked about comparing kids with similar achievement levels, but until the schools have a full look at the new test, it’s hard not to have some worry among teachers and administrators.

In the case of the latest CRCT results – the results of the final standardized test that has been a mainstay since the early 2000s – it’s certainly correct to look at the results of Yargo Elementary from year-to-year and notice a decrease among most grades and subjects.

However, the school’s students are still passing the test at a higher percentage than most schools in the county and around the state. For that reason, McMichael said the school has kept in place the same successful formulas for preparing for the test. Small year-to-year fluctuations are simply to be expected, McMichael said, especially if one year 100 percent of a whole grade of students passed a subject – it’s unlikely to happen again.

But it’s not necessarily because the school took a step back in any way.

"Yargo’s doing what it’s always done because it’s successful," he said. "It always fluctuates."

On the other hand, with a school that has struggled in the past, like Westside middle school students, teachers in many cases have been able to tweak the instruction and produce better results, as WMS seventh and eighth graders did with the 2014 results, passing all of their subjects at a higher rate than last year, although still below the level of some of the Barrow schools.

McMichael has mentioned previously his desire to see progress, even if it’s not up to a certain level, be a bigger deal, but he also wants to make sure his students in the top tier aren’t penalized for simply maintaining excellence.



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