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State throws out social studies portion of CRCT

Performance 'implausibly low,' state superintendent says

POSTED: June 2, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The Georgia Department of Education is throwing out results of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests’ social studies portion taken by sixth- and seventh-graders in April.

"Simply, the performance appears to be implausibly low, which raised serious questions," said state Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox in a message to superintendents statewide Wednesday afternoon.

She said that "after intense scrutiny of the standards and the assessment, we have come to the conclusion that these scores are not trustworthy measures of student achievement in social studies."

State officials found nothing technically incorrect with the scoring. "This decision is based primarily on the conviction that we need to revise the curriculum and the assessments to better evaluate the knowledge and skills that represent student achievement in social studies," Cox said.

She added, "This action does not affect any other areas of the curriculum or their corresponding assessments."

Will Schofield, superintendent of the Hall County school system, said school officials did "exit interviews" of students taking the basic-skills tests and students left the social studies exams befuddled.

The tests simply didn’t match up with what students were taught through the year, he said.

Schofield said one teacher likened the situation to "preparing a team for Friday night football game and showing up and realizing it was a tennis match."

Steven Ballowe, superintendent of the Gainesville school system, said he believes that "invalidating the social studies test was the right thing to do."

"This test was clearly not testing the standards our teachers were teaching and our children were learning," he said.

Dana Tofig, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said the test matched up with the curriculum, but the problem was that the questions were too specific for the broad curriculum.

Before the state’s decision, Schofield had said in an e-mail to school employees that early data suggests that more than 70 percent of students in the state will fail the exams.

"Regardless of the state explanation, Hall County schools has no intention of accepting these scores as valid," he said.

"Therefore, please do all that you can to communicate to your parents and staff members that we are not treating these data as a valid source of information regarding student records and placement."

Cox said in her message that the state "will empanel a group of teachers and curriculum leaders to revise the social studies curriculum in grades six and seven and help us begin the process of developing new assessments for these grades."

The state has for several years rolled out a new curriculum, the Georgia Performance Standards, in key subject areas, with new social studies standards for sixth and seventh grades implemented this school year.

State officials are standing by this year’s math results, despite lower results in that area.

The state has reported that 60 percent of Georgia eighth-graders passed the state exam.

Fifth-graders and eighth-graders must pass the reading and math portions of the test for a clear path to the next grade. Third-graders must pass the reading portion to be promoted.

Students still can be promoted on an appeal to the principal.

Otherwise, students can move on after a passing a CRCT retest, which is given at the end of summer school instruction.

The state Department of Education also uses the CRCT as its measuring stick for whether elementary and middle schools are making "adequate yearly progress," or AYP.

Georgia doesn’t count the performance of first- and second-graders in determining AYP.


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