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Preliminary test results hearten schools
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Hall County school officials are “cautiously optimistic” after receiving preliminary standardized test results from the past school year.

“We questioned what would be the result of having a later testing window after all the snow days we endured this year,” said Kevin Bales, the school district’s middle grades school improvement specialist.

Schools have received preliminary data on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests; a public release won’t be until later in the year. Bales cautioned that some students still need to retake the test, so the results are not yet final. Systems also don’t know how the state results stack up.

“We’re proud of that 4 percent gain, as an example there in third-grade social studies, but if the state comes out with a 5 percent increase in their numbers, we need to kind of calm down and step back a little bit,” Bales said, presenting the information at Monday’s work session of the school district’s Board of Education.

Regardless of those caveats, the district saw gains across all grades in the majority of subjects tested by the CRCT, including reading, English/language arts, math, science and social studies.

“What you’ll see as you go through here, we have places where we have 10 and 11 percent gains,” Bales said. “I’m quite confident to tell you I don’t necessarily anticipate the state to post that type of increase.”

For example, there was an 11 percent gain in eighth-grade science scores, from 74 to 85 percent meeting or exceeding expectations.

“We did have a couple of schools that had growth close to the 20 percent range,” Bales said.

There were some dips. For example, fourth-grade math results were down 3 percent from 2013.

But again, those dips have yet to be compared to state results; Bales said the state could easily be down 5 percent.

Information on state results is scheduled to be released Thursday, according to Georgia Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza. The results don’t include the data from retesting, but there won’t be a separate release for those final results, he said.

“There’s a total of 30 content areas and grade levels you’ll see,” Bales said about the Hall information. “I think you’re only going to see a decline in three of those 30. That’s a 90 percent clip of increase for our county.”

The data are being compared to the preliminary data from the 2013 tests, so it’s an “apples-to-apples” comparison, Bales said.

Gainesville City Schools also saw some increases, particularly in reading. Director of Standards and Assessment Sarah Bell said the districtwide number of students exceeding standards in reading grew from 28 percent in 2012 to 33 percent in 2014.

“In all other subject areas, the percentage of students meeting and exceeding standards has held steady, within 1 to 2 percentage points, over the past three years,” Bell said.

“Overall, we are very pleased with our performance as a district,” she added. “We continue to work diligently in the content areas in which our scores have been traditionally lower — math, science and social studies — in order to ensure that our students are successful as they reach the high school level.”

Comparing the preliminary data to other schools in the Pioneer Regional Education Service Agency district, which includes counties such as Lumpkin and Habersham, Hall Superintendent Will Schofield said the scores are good news, especially considering student demographics in Gainesville and Hall schools are different than in other areas.

“We have a very different student population in our two districts to the other 11 (school systems),” Schofield said. “It appears, looking at the comparisons (to the other RESA schools), we’ve gained ground a lot faster than the other ... districts in the RESA. Which is good news.”

The CRCT is given to students beginning in third grade, all the way through eighth. The 2014 tests were the last for students; education officials have announced new Georgia Milestones assessments will be in place for the next school year.