The Muscogee County School District improved its passing rate on half of the state’s standardized tests this year compared to last year and continued to outperform the districts in the state’s other second-tier cities — but still trails the state average — according to the results the Georgia Department of Education released Friday.
The results of the Georgia Milestones are reported on one of four levels: Beginning Learner, Developing Learner, Proficient Learner or Distinguished Learner. Scoring at the Proficient or Distinguished levels is considered passing the test.
MCSD decreased its number of students identified as Beginning Learners in half of the comparable content areas. MCSD also had better passing rates than the other districts in the state’s second-tier cities (Augusta, Macon and Savannah) on 18 of the 24 comparable tests.
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But for the second straight year, MCSD didn’t surpass the state average on any test. The gap is as large as 17 percentage points in fourth-grade math (MCSD 30, state 47) and as small as 1 percentage point in high school economics (MCSD 48, state 49).
Georgia law requires standardized tests in grades 3-12, including End of Grade tests in English language arts and math for grades 3-8, End of Grade tests in science and social studies for grades 5 and 8, and End of Course tests in designated core subjects for grades 9-12. Those subjects are Ninth-Grade Literature and Composition, American Literature and Composition, Algebra I or Coordinate Algebra, Geometry or Analytic Geometry, Biology, Physical Science, U.S. History, and Economics. MCSD students take Algebra I and Geometry instead of Coordinate Algebra and Analytic Geometry.
“While I am pleased with the results overall, some are not in keeping with our district expectations for student achievement,” MCSD superintendent David Lewis said in a news release. “Our longitudinal trend data indicates we are closing the performance gaps with the state at the secondary level in many areas, but it also suggests that many students are entering school with greater baseline deficits, particularly those from socioeconomically disadvantaged areas within our community. Despite schools achieving academic growth that is commensurate with a year’s worth of schooling or more, significant entry-level deficits slow progress toward proficiency.”
To address those entry-level deficits, Lewis said, “we are making several strategic adjustments” in the following ways:
▪ Expanding and relocating pre-kindergarten programs to schools in areas where incoming deficits are prominent. Sites were expanded from nine to 15 centers, leading to a 67 percent growth in pre-K enrollment.
▪ Redesigned professional development and support for elementary school teachers.
▪ Reducing class sizes in the primary grades.
▪ Proposing an intensive literacy intervention program. The Lexia Reading Core5 program was introduced to the school board during the July work session.
▪ Intensifying how the district monitors progress. Lewis and his cabinet have used live conference technology to meet with school administrators and address needs within their school improvement plans.
MCSD highlights in grades 3-8
▪ Increased or maintained the number of Proficient and Distinguished Learners on 12 of the 16 tests.
▪ Decreased or maintained the number of Beginning Learners on 12 of the 16 tests.
▪ Increased or maintained the number of Proficient and Distinguished Learners in four of the six grade levels on the English language arts test.
▪ Increased or maintained the number of Proficient and Distinguished Learners in all six grade levels on the math test.
▪ Increased the number of Proficient and Distinguished Learners in fifth-grade and eighth-grade science and social studies, which are the only grade levels to take those tests.
MCSD highlights in grades 9-12
▪ Increased or maintained the number of Proficient and Distinguished Learners on six of the eight tests.
▪ Decreased the number of Beginning Learners on four of the eight tests.
▪ Increased the number of Proficient and Distinguished Learners on one of the two English language arts tests.
▪ Increased the number of Proficient and Distinguished Learners on one of the two math tests.
▪ Increased or maintained the number of Proficient and Distinguished Learners on both of the science tests and both of the social studies tests.
The Harris County School District’s passing rate is better than the state average on 91 percent of the tests.
“Harris County continues to strive for excellence throughout the district,” HCSD assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction Dave Dennie told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email on behalf of superintendent Roger Couch. “We will continue to support our students, faculty and staff to be the best they can be to ensure that the students graduating from the district are college and career ready.”
Asked what concerns him most about HCSD’s results, Dennie said, “We did have two areas, biology and economics, that did not perform better than the state average. We are addressing all levels of student achievement through the continuous school improvement process.”
That process entails each school having a team of instructional leaders discussing among themselves and with district administrators “where we are and where we want to go, using the data as our guide,” Dennie explained. “The teams spend time looking through the data finding our areas of strength and areas in need of improvement. This process continues throughout the year at both the district and school level.”
Out of its 24 tests, the Chattahoochee County School District improved its passing rate on 18, outperformed its region average on 15 and outperformed the state average on seven.
ChattCo superintendent David McCurry praised the “growth across most grade levels.”
“I’m especially proud of the middle school results,” he told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email. “These grade levels have been a targeted area in our turnaround effort. The middle school students, teachers and administration have put in a tremendous amount of hard work toward higher academic achievement. This hard work shows in their test scores.”
McCurry said the school district and community have high expectations and welcome accountability.
“I’m very proud of everyone for stepping up to meet these expectations, especially the students,” he said. “We have a wonderful school system.
The greatest concern in the school district, said ChattCo assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction Tabatha Walton, is “the continuation of improvement at all levels.”
“While our district has advanced our students’ learning greatly from the Beginning level to the Developing level in most areas of the GMAS, our goal is to continue to make gains from the Developing to the Proficient level,” Walton told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email. “We will continue to address the learning needs of our students through providing supportive learning environments, providing appropriate professional learning for teachers and leaders, and communicating and engaging our community more.”
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE