Source: NorthFulton.com

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CANDY WAYLOCK
Students still struggle on year-end math tests

by Candy Waylock

July 22, 2014

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. End of Course Tests (EOCTs) for spring 2014 revealed more than 60 percent of Georgia high school freshmen and sophomores failed to meet the minimum standards for algebra and geometry.

The two math tests are among eight subject tests given to high school students each year, and which count for 20 percent of the student's grade. In the other six tests, Georgia students performed above expectations.

On the EOCT for Coordinate Algebra taught in ninth grade, only 23 of 182 school systems had averages above 69 percent. On the test for Analytic Geometry in 10th grade, the numbers were even bleaker. Only 15 school systems posted averages above 69, with a number of systems reporting a near 100 percent fail rate.

Students in the Fulton County School System (FCSS) posted a system average of 73 for Coordinate Algebra and 72 in Analytic Geometry. Nearly 50 percent of students in Fulton's high schools did not meet the benchmark standards on either test, while just under 20 percent exceeded standards.

School level results have not yet been released.

The subpar results provide even more ammunition for FCSS leaders who are engaged in a long-running battle with state education officials over how math is taught in Georgia. The FCSS has tried for years to bring back a traditional math path to its high school curriculum to allow subjects be taught in a "discrete" manner with each year dedicated to one math concept, such as algebra, geometry and so on.

The state, however, moved to an integrated approach nearly a decade ago with all math concepts put into each year, with "strands" of each concept at each level with advancing depth each year. While Fulton has the state's permission to teach traditional math, the EOCTs remain integrated.

The 2013-14 school year was only the second year for the Coordinate Algebra EOCT, the first for Analytic Geometry and the last for both. Next year, Georgia is dropping all EOCTs, along with the Criterion Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs) in elementary and middle school, in favor of the new Georgia Milestones assessment in grades 3-12.

Georgia Milestones will be aligned to the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS) in English/language arts and mathematics and Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) in science and social studies. The GPS was the state curriculum prior to the adoption of the Common Core.

State education officials warned the results from the first Milestones offering next year will likely be lower than this year until students become accustomed to the higher rigor.

"The Analytic Geometry and Coordinate Algebra results [this year] give us another look at the new level of increased expectation for student achievement that is coming with Georgia Milestones. The expectations to meet standards are significantly increasing so we have a new and more realistic baseline of student performance," said State Schools Superintendent John Barge.

When asked how much lower math scores can go when a significant number of students are failing the current tests, Barge said students must rise to the expectations at the national level.

"While [this year's] results seem low and different from what we are used to seeing, they are in line with what many national assessments say Georgia's students [are at]. We must address this head-on so our students leave our schools with the best preparation possible to succeed in life after high school," said Barge.

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