When it comes to required tests, students in the Jefferson City Schools system are ahead of the state curve in many areas.
According to recently released data, Jefferson High School students beat state averages by 3 percentage points in three of the four areas of the Georgia High School Graduation Test. Not only did Jefferson students score comparatively better on the math, science and social studies sections of the exam, the students also improved upon last year’s averages.
Last year, 94 percent of first-time test-takers passed the math section of the graduation exam, this year, that number jumped to 97 percent.
Jefferson elementary and middle school students also made great gains on the state-mandated Criterion Referenced Competency Test.
This year, 95 percent of eighth-graders passed the math portion of the CRCT, up 9 percentage points from last year’s average of 86 percent. Fifth-grade students also improved average scores on the science section by the same margin — scores are also up from last year’s 86 percent passing to 95 percent.
"All (testing areas) are now under the new Georgia Performance Standards," said Sherrie Gibney-Sherman, school system associate superintendent.
"Most recently we brought on the math curriculum. This last year has been full of really intense work with the teachers trying to understand exactly what the new curriculum standards were and what they had to teach. The teachers have been working very hard with the students — teaching the lessons, assessing student achievement and looking at the results of the assessments to see where changes need to be made to reach the students who may be struggling. All of those changes have really made an impact on student achievement."
The GPS curriculum has been touted by the Georgia Department of Education as more rigorous than the previous Quality Core Curriculum that was taught in schools.
Although student scores have increased in many areas, there are some categories where the number of students passing the exams have decreased by 1 or 2 percentage points. The most radical drop came on from the third-graders on the social studies portion of the CRCT. Last year, 99 percent of students passed, this year that number dropped to 85 percent.
"Because our (student population) is so small, all it takes is one or two students to change averages by 1 percentage point," said Gibney-Sherman.
"However, we will be tearing apart the scores, student by student and area by area. We’re going to be looking at where achievement went up and where it went down and what was being done in each area, so that we can determine what changes need to be made."
Hall County and Gainesville high school juniors also surpassed the state average on the Georgia High School Graduation Test. The test was administered to first-time juniors this March and 84 percent of 1,223 Hall County students passed the test compared to 80 percent statewide, according to Hall County administrators. Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said 86 percent of 232 Gainesville students passed the test.