The Muscogee County School District scored below the state average in all but one of the 32 tested subject in grades 3-12 on the state's new and more rigorous standardized exams. MCSD's performance, however, looks better when measured against districts similar in size and demographics.
The Georgia Department of Education released on Monday afternoon the results of the Georgia Milestones for the state's public school districts and schools.
The only tested subject in which MCSD didn't rank below the state average is ninth-grade literature & composition, where the district matched the Georgia average of 38 percent scoring at the Proficient or Distinguished level.
But when compared to the county school districts of Bibb (Macon), Chatham (Savannah) and Richmond (Augusta) -- Georgia's other second-tier cities -- MCSD compares much more favorably.
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Taking the average Proficient and Distinguished rates in all tested elementary school grades and subjects, while the state's average is 36 percent, MCSD's is 27, which beats Bibb (20), Chatham (26) and Richmond (13).
In middle school, while the state's average is 34 percent, MCSD's is 25, which beats Bibb (18), Chatham (23) and Richmond (17).
In high school, while the state's average is 36 percent, MCSD's is 34, which beats Bibb (15), Chatham (27) and Richmond (21).
MCSD superintendent David Lewis, whom the Muscogee County School Board hired two years ago from Polk County, Fla., where he was an associate superintendent, said in a news release, "While these baseline results clearly do not meet our expectations, they do not mean that our students know less or that our teachers are not working hard to provide meaningful learning opportunities for improved student achievement.
"They do mean the expectations for what students know, what students are able to do and the way teachers instruct must continue to evolve to meet the greater demands and competition our students will face in their post-secondary experiences. We welcome the higher expectations and we will meet these challenges head-on by continuing to execute the plan as outlined in my initial Assessment and Recommendations Report."
Lewis added, "Given the necessary time, training, resources as well as parental and community support, our district can and will meet the challenges to become the premiere school district we aspire to be."
During tonight's meeting, the board is scheduled to vote on whether to extend Lewis' three-year contract.
The Georgia Milestones Assessment System is the state's new set of accountability tests to measure how well public schools are teaching the mandated standards for grades 3-12 in English language arts, math, science and social students. The state's previous exams were the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, the End-of-Course Tests and the Georgia Writing Assessments. These were dropped last year in favor of the Georgia Milestones, which test students on the state's more rigorous standards.
The Georgia Milestones comprise two batteries of tests:
The End-of-Grade tests measure how well students in grades 3-8 have learned each content area.
The End-of-Course tests measure how well students in grades 9-12 have learned one of the 10 identified courses: Ninth-Grade Literature & Composition, American Literature & Composition, Algebra I, Coordinate Algebra, Analytic Geometry, Geometry, Biology, Physical Science, U.S. History and Economics.
The Georgia Milestones were administered for the first time this past spring, so there isn't a data set to compare performance from previous years.
In addition to having a more rigorous curriculum, the state's new accountability tests are tougher. The Georgia Milestones included open-ended questions in English language arts and math, requiring students to explain their answers. The assessment of writing is part of the English language arts test.
The CRCT results were expressed in three categories: exceeds expectations, meets expectations and does not meet expectations. The results for the Georgia Milestones are expressed through four levels of achievement:
Beginning Learners haven't demonstrated proficiency and need substantial academic support to be prepared for the next grade level or course and to be on track for college and career readiness.
Developing Learners demonstrated partial proficiency and need additional academic support to ensure success in the next grade level or course and to be on track for college and career readiness.
Proficient Learners demonstrated proficiency and are prepared for the next grade level or course and are on track for college and career readiness.
Distinguished Learners demonstrated advanced proficiency and are well prepared for the next grade level or course and are prepared for college and career readiness.
Georgia law requires students in grades 3, 5 and 8 to be at or above grade level (Proficient or Distinguished) in English language arts to be promoted to the next grade. Georgia law also requires fifth-graders and eighth-graders to be at least a Developing Learner in math to be promoted to the next grade. But because this was the first year of the state's new tests, the Georgia Board of Education waived those requirements for the 2014-15 school year.
In 2014, the last year Georgia's students took the CRCT, Muscogee County improved on more than half of the tests (17 of 30) in grades 3-8 and narrowed the achievement gap with the state average on more than one-third of the tests (13 of 30). But MCSD didn't exceed or match the state average in any of the 30 tests.
For example, in math, 72.3 percent of MCSD eighth-graders met or exceeded the state standards on the 2014 CRCT while the Georgia average was 81.5. On the 2015 Georgia Milestones math test, 29 percent of MCSD eighth-graders were Proficient or Distinguished while the state average was 37 percent.
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow him on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.