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Schools get mixed results on testing
Data from GMAS test results can be interpreted various ways
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The Liberty County School System improved in some areas in the 2016-17 Georgia Milestones Assessment System test.

A review of scores for students who are level 3, or proficient, and level 4, or distinguished, was presented at the Board of Education’s morning meeting Tuesday. LCSS Assistant Superintendent Susan Avant said in analyzing the data they look at overall performance, comparisons to the state and region, and score by grade level and classes that stay together over a period of time.

Regional scores are schools in LCSS’s Regional Educational Service Agency district.

Overall scores
The district had 16 areas where students recorded double-digit gains in specific grade levels or content areas compared to 2016, Avant said, using fourth grade English language arts as an example. In 2017, 42 percent of students scored either proficient or distinguished. In 2016, that number was 31 percent.

Across the district, it was a mixed bag. There were improvements in different subjects over the previous year, and lower scores in some cases that still exceeded state and regional scores.

Elementary schools showed improvement, exceeded some state and regional scores and had areas of decline.

Third grade math students, for example, upped the percentage of students reading at proficient or distinguished levels from 33 to 37 percent. The district exceeded the state’s 29 percent, which dropped from 40 percent in 2016, and the region’s 31 percent.

However, in fifth grade social studies, LCSS students performing at a higher level declined from 22 percent in 2016 to 19 percent. Middle school social studies scores dropped slightly from 2016,  while improving in math and science.

The high schools exceeded the state and region in some areas, such as ninth grade literature with 57 percent compared to the state’s 38 percent, while still showing signs of decline in other subjects, such as economics.

In economics. 38 percent of local students were proficient or better. In 2016 it was 49 percent and 2015 48 percent.

Interpreting the data
All the data and comparisons can be analyzed in different ways. One is by focusing on cohorts, or a particular class, and tracking the progress of that group of students through grade levels.

“We follow a group of students from one year to the next to see if we’re closing the gaps, how they are doing and are we continuing to maintain or grow,” Avant said. “Sometimes it looks a little tricky when you’re looking at the chart because you may have a cohort with growth but you may see a little bit of decline if you just have the overall achievement for that grade level.”

Avant gave an example of scores for third grade science, which shows those students at 27 percent in 2015. In fourth grade the same group scored higher at 28 percent and as fifth graders were at 31 percent.

“If you look at that score overtime it looks as though that fifth graders went down 3 percent, which from year to year they did, but that particular cohort of students has progressed, they have continued to come up,” Avant said.

It’s also important to consider the “human variable” which can impact students’ performance, Avant said.

This can include how teachers used resources, having long term substitute teachers, a new teacher or veteran teachers with more experience.

“There’s a lot more that goes into it than just looking at overall achievement,” Avant said.

To help improve scores, Avant said the district is continuing with what she called data digs, or looking at and analyzing the numbers; meeting with principals, teacher collaborations, providing grade level and individual support, working with school specialists to break down the data for teaching, providing new resources and motivating students.

2016-2017 LCSS GMAS scores
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