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Tougher guidelines boost test scores
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However tempted toward skepticism one might be by reports of improvement in public education outcomes, there’s really no downside to the latest numbers in Georgia.

The state Department of Education on June 9 released this spring’s standardized test scores, and for the second year in a row those scores are up. In a couple of subject areas, they’re substantially up.

Two years ago, eighth-grade math scores did a nosedive; this year the passing rate was 74 percent, up 12 percentage points from the 2008 low.

Since implementation of the tougher Georgia Performance Standards in 2006 — the higher bar that caused so much trouble the first couple of years — some of the rates of improvement are too statistically significant to be dismissed as blips.

For instance, 80 percent of Georgia seventh-graders passed the science Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, up 4 percentage points since last year and 17 points since 2008. Ninety percent of fifth-graders passed the reading tests, up nine points since the GPS. The pass rate for eighth-grade social studies — the subject whose hopelessly flawed curriculum-testing disconnect forced the department to scrap the test altogether in 2008 — was 70 percent. That’s not good enough, but it’s still up 11 percentage points over two years.

Maybe even more encouraging than the overall rise in test scores is one of the principal reasons for that improvement: The achievement gap between white and minority students has closed substantially. The percentage of black students passing third-grade math has risen to 80 percent, up an impressive 14 percentage points over the last two years, and the percentage of Hispanic students passing English language arts is up 16 percentage points over the last five years.

There are, as always, some red flags. One is a slight drop in English and math scores (despite overall high passing rates) among first- and second-graders, always a concern at that early stage in education where a child can fall behind and never catch up. ...

Georgia still has a long way to go in education achievement, as Superintendent Kathy Cox acknowledged. The state’s ranking is still far too low on the national roster. But significant progress is always welcome.


— Columbus Ledger-

Online: www.ledger-

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