Students improve on Georgia Graduation Test

Georgia's high school students will graduate this month better prepared for science and English college classes, state officials said Monday.

That's because of a revamped Georgia High School Graduation Test aligned with tougher science and English language arts curriculums, according to the state Department of Education.

"Improving student achievement isn't about a test, but providing a good curriculum," education department spokesman Dana Tofig said Monday. "It shows students are understanding the more rigorous material, which better prepares them for college and the workforce."

Statewide graduation tests scores released earlier this month show more students passed the mandatory exam on the first try than last spring.

District-level scores will be released later this week. Individual school results will be available early next month, Tofig said.

All public school students in Georgia must pass the test before receiving a diploma.

Students at South Atlanta and Douglass High Schools will graduate Tuesday. More Atlanta Public Schools students, along with students from Clayton County, will graduate this week.

Students in Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett counties graduated last week.

State officials attribute the increase in first-time test takers passing to the revamped exams that test students directly on the information they learned in the classroom as part of the Georgia Performance Standards.

The state rolled out the aligned English and science portions of the test in the spring of 2008. The social studies portion is scheduled to be aligned to the curriculum in spring 2010 and the math portion will be implemented in 2011, according to the department of education.

The state requires the new curriculum be in place for three years before the test can be aligned. The state implemented the tougher curriculum in 2005.

Statewide tests results released this month show:

• 90 percent of students passed the English language arts portion of the test, up from 89 percent last year.

• 88 percent of students passed the science portion, up from 86 percent last year.

• 94 percent of students passed the math portion, up from 93 percent last year.

• 87 percent of students passed the social studies portion, up from 86 percent last year.

"The results of the 2009 GHSGT show that our students continue to make steady progress in all areas of the curriculum," State Superintendent Kathy Cox said in a statement.

The test is given to all students in the spring of their junior year. However, students may retake any portion of the test they fail several times during their senior year.

The state education department is also working with the state university system to align the test with college entry level requirements. This will allow students who excel in a certain subject not to take a college entry test or remedial college course in that area, Tofig said.