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BoE director: CRCT too specific
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Even before summer school began Monday, Dr. Karen Grant, board of education executive director of curriculum and instruction, has been busier than usual, dealing with concerned parents whose student may be in danger of repeating a grade.
According to a report from the board of education, 341 eighth-graders and 129 fifth-graders did not pass the math portion of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.
Low passing rates in math and social studies were seen across the state as preliminary reports were released from the Georgia Department of Education.
State superintendent of schools Kathy Cox and the Georgia DoE decided to void the social studies results when the 20 percent pass rate forced them to re-evaluate.
Superintendent Cox did not feel the test reflected what students were taught in class.
"There was not a direct correlation between the test item and the actual standard," Dr. Grant explained. "In other words, they (the test questions) got too specific."
She said Cox has been "really, really honest," with her decision to void the test results and take the criticism that followed.
"I think that was brave of her to do that," she said. "To admit that you were wrong."
However, the math scores will stand.
"When you raise standards and expectations, it is not unusual to see a temporary dip in the percent of students who are meeting those expectations," Cox said in a May 19 news release.
Grant has been working to help parents understand that the content in the CRCT is based on curriculum, but the state recently switched from the Quality Core Curriculum to the Georgia Performance Standards.
Though it began being implemented in the classrooms and on CRCT since 2005, the state has been slowly streaming the curriculum material in by grade level and subject.
"It's a gradual roll out by grade level and by subject," Grant explained. "That's why in certain subjects and certain grades you see the dips."
She explained that GPS are "performance-based," and on "higher level thinking skills."
Students are now required to prove they know the "concept," behind what they are learning.
"The way the questions are worded it makes you have to know why you're doing it that way," she said. "You have to think through the process and do the application part to know which one to bubble."
She said the questions are now phased to force the student to the skills into practice.
"Wrapped up in the phrasing of that question is 'Student A, how do you now apply this knowledge in the real world'," Grant explained.
Even though the social studies results were thrown out, the other subject areas were not faulty, despite the low scores. Students just were not accustomed to the new standards, according to Grant.  
"Those other tests did match what was in the GPS," she said.
Teachers have been preparing students in the classroom to perform to the new standards.
And the BoE has kept parents and teachers current on the new curriculum "since this new implementation of GPS has been rolling in," according to Grant.
But Grant is sympathetic to the parents' concern.
"Though they may be hearing the information prior to, that's when it really hits home when it affects your personal child," she said.
The board notified parents whose student did not pass the CRCT with a letter sent the week of May 19.
Before the CRCT retest June 24-26, students will have the opportunity to attend the three-week remediation session.
Summer school runs from 7:30 to 12:30, Monday through Thursday, with lunch and transportation provided.
At the two school sites, there are 620 enrolled students and 78 certified teachers.
The CRCT became a contingency for grade promotion when No Child Left Behind was introduced in 2001.
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