CRCT scores show performance up in reading, down in math


GEORGIA TEST GLOSSARY

> CRCT (Criterion-Referenced Competency Test): Given to students in third through eighth grades in reading, English/language arts, math, science and social studies. This was the last year of the CRCT: It's being replaced next year by a new, tougher test called the Georgia Milestones Assessment.

> EOCT (end-of-course tests): Typically given to high school students in several courses determined by the state board of education, including coordinate algebra, analytic geometry, U.S. history and more. These count as the final exam and make up 15 percent to 20 percent of the student's final grade. Also being replaced next year by the Georgia Milestones Assessment.

> GHSGT (Georgia High School Graduation Test): This is the last year high school students will be required to pass this test before earning a diploma. The exam has been phased out, although students still have to take and pass the Georgia High School Writing Test. The state board of education will vote soon on whether to eliminate the writing test.

> NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress): Called "the nation's report card, " the NAEP is one of the few tests given nationally that allows for comparison of state-to-state academic performance. It's given periodically in reading, math, science, writing and other subjects. Typically, only statewide results, no district- or school-level results, are released for the NAEP.

> ACT, AP, PSAT, SAT: National tests typically given at the high school level to determine college readiness. These tests often receive the most attention because they are given across the country and allow parents to see how students compare to peers in other districts and states.

A CLOSER LOOK: HOW GEORGIA’S 3RD, 5TH AND 8TH GRADERS DID ON THE CRCT

The Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) is given every year in reading, English/language arts and math in first through eighth-grades. Students third through eight are also tested in science and social studies.

CRCT PERFORMANCE CHARTS

» STATEWIDE: 3rd Grade | 5th Grade | 8th Grade| 8th Grade Math

DISTRICT-BY-DISTRICT

» 3rd GRADE: APS | Clayton | Cobb | DeKalb | Fulton | Gwinnett

» 5th GRADE: APS | Clayton | Cobb | DeKalb | Fulton | Gwinnett

» 8th GRADE: APS | Clayton | Cobb | DeKalb | Fulton | Gwinnett

Go to MyAJC.com for a searchable database for each elementary and middle school in the largest metro Atlanta districts to see they fared on the CRCT.

More metro Atlanta students struggled with math than with reading, according to school-level results on mandatory tests released by the Georgia Department of Education Tuesday.

Pass rates on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests were measured by grade level at each school. And in the core metro Atlanta districts, a pass rate of 100 percent occurred nearly seven times more frequently in reading than in math.

The CRCTs are not the high-stakes tests that they were under the No Child Left Behind Act; Georgia got a waiver from the federal mandate and created a new system that downplayed the raw scores and emphasized improvement. Now, Georgia is phasing out the test, and will replace it in the upcoming school year with a new measure called Georgia Milestones.

The test, which covers reading, math, English/language arts, science and social studies, was administered in grades three through eight this spring. Students in third, fifth and eighth grades are supposed to pass the reading portion for promotion to the next grade while students in fifth and eighth grades are supposed to pass math.

Some grades at some schools and in some subjects notched double-digit gains in pass rates while others notched double-digit losses. One school, Columbia Elementary in DeKalb County, did both. The percentage of third-graders who failed reading rose by 14.6 points to 31.3 percent — among the top 10 losses of any grade in metro Atlanta. Meanwhile, the school saw one of the highest gains in math, with the pass rate for fifth-graders climbing 31.6 percentage points to 87.9 percent.

Trenton Arnold, a DeKalb administrator previously in charge of testing, attributed the math gain to a program that used computerized tracking data to identify students on the edge of failure who just needed a little tutoring to succeed. He couldn’t explain the drop in the reading success rate, though.

Across metro Atlanta, students were stronger in reading than in math. All students in 160 grades at schools in the Atlanta, Decatur and Marietta city systems and the Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett systems passed the reading portion of the tests, up from last year. In math, only a couple of dozen grades had a 100 percent pass rate, and that was down a bit from the prior year.

Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said he was pleased with his district’s results, but planned to analyze the data to see where some schools can improve. DeKalb Superintendent Michael Thurmond highlighted improved scores in some economically disadvantaged schools. However, at least one half of the eighth-graders in seven DeKalb middle schools did not meet the CRCT standards in math.

Many of the struggling schools are in high-poverty areas with less parental involvement.

At Atlanta’s Perkerson Elementary School, the percentage of third-graders who did not meet CRCT standards in reading more than doubled from the prior school year. The percentage of third-graders who did not meet the CRCT math standards was slightly above 60 percent, nearly double from the prior school year.

PTA President Erica Long said the scores do not necessarily reflect what she’s seeing at the school: students who are becoming strong thinkers. Long, who just completed her first year as PTA president, noted that the school only recently implemented a dual-language immersion program and that students have greater access to iPads and to local arts programs.

“We are moving in the right direction,” said Long, an APS graduate.

Long acknowledged that she’d like to see better parental involvement.

“To me, that is the missing link,” said Long, whose son will be a first-grader at the school this fall.

Joe Blessing, director of testing in the Atlanta district, said another issue is transient students. The district is working on a plan this fall to teach a common curriculum in all schools so students who move from one to another do not fall behind. Blessing said Atlanta is also looking to share best practices with lesser-performing schools, such as a program at Venetian Hills Elementary where they work closely with third-graders who are struggling in reading and math. The percentage of third-graders at the school who did not meet the reading standards fell from 38.6 percent in 2013 to 10.2 percent in 2014.

Lisa Lake sent her kids to a public Montessori school in DeKalb County until last year when the program was cancelled. She used to drive 30 minutes each way from Lithonia to drop her children off at Midway Elementary. But like many parents she changed schools when a new principal eliminated Montessori. Now, she drives 45 minutes to one of two remaining Montessori schools, and Midway is attended mostly by kids from the neighborhood.

Lake speculated that the departure of parents drawn to the Montessori program could explain the substantial drop in performance in reading among younger students at Midway. The school’s third-graders recorded a 15.6 percentage point drop in the pass rate for reading, with 35.9 percent failing the test this year compared with 20.3 percent last year, when Lake was PTA president.

“All of our Montessori parents moved,” she said. “Now it’s just a neighborhood school,” she said, adding, “that neighborhood has a very low economic base.”

A long-term trend in the statewide data is an improvement in performance among immigrants and other students who are not native English speakers. James Prigatano, a parent at McLendon Elementary in DeKalb, said the district concentrated on English learners, which might explain why third-graders at his school had some of the biggest growth in math in metro Atlanta. The pass rate rose 33 percentage points to 83 percent.

“We had some teachers focusing really hard on getting these kids up to speed,” said Prigatano, who was president of the school council this past school year. “We’re just happy to see that kind of increase.”