“I think middle school wise all our scores [reflect classroom teaching],” Gottwald said. “We’re either at or above [the state average] for everything and there’s not a score we got this year that is less than 80 percent.”
Gottwald broke down how the overall scores compare to last year as well as how the scores have changed over the last five years.
“In reading, from 2012 to 2013 we remained the same at 95 percent pass rate, which was just 1 percent under the state. But if we look at a five-year trend for us, we’ve improved 4 percent in the last five years in reading,” Gottwald said. “For English Language Arts in 2012 we had a 92 percent pass rate and this year we had a 93 percent pass rate. Again, from five years ago up until now we had a 4 percent increase.
“In math, we were at 81 percent pass rate last year and this year we’re at 86 percent with an increase of 5 percent, with the state having an increase of 4 percent.”
He continued, “In science, we’ve stayed a little stagnant at 80 percent, both last year and the year before, but we’re still at 2 percentage points above the state.”
Gottwald said one of the most notable increases on the CRCT comes from the area of social studies.
“In social studies, we went from 76 percent in 2012 to 81 percent in 2013 for a 5 percent increase. But the highest jump has been in the five-year increase — we went up 12 percentage points in social studies and in middle school that’s kind of tough,” Gottwald said. “... Many times when you develop a middle school team of teachers, if you’re only alloted so many teachers, let’s say at sixth grade you’re alloted seven teachers, and you have a three-man team and a four-man team, the people on that three-man team have to share some other academic subject and typically that subject is social studies.
“So, that means three teachers are teaching one social studies period a day.”
He said while the county is pleased with being in the 90th percentile for reading, they still would like to reach 100 percent. For math, bringing up the scores is a necessity, Gottwald said.
“Science is still an issue for us, even at the high schools,” he said. “I think we’re going to do a lot more focus on science as well as math.”
Director of Elementary Curriculum Melissa Williams said she also was pleased with the continual growth for third through fifth graders on the CRCT. She said when looking at the test results it is important to take into account the percentage of students exceeding the state standards versus just the percentage of students who met the standards.
“The bar is not set very high from the state level, you basically just have to get about 40 percent of the answers right to meet the standard,” Williams said. “In all areas we’re growing in the area of ‘exceeds [except science].’”
Williams compared the same group of students from year to year. For example, third graders in 2012 to fourth graders in 2013.
Science scores for fourth graders in 2012 decreased from 82 percent to 79 percent for fifth graders in 2013.
In the area of reading, third graders increased from 92 percent exceeds to 95 percent exceeds as fourth graders. In math, fourth graders in 2012 increased from 82 percent exceeds to 91 percent exceeds as fifth graders in 2013.
She said once students hit the 95 percent in the exceeds area, it becomes increasingly more difficult to acquire higher scores. In an effort to help younger students perform better in the classroom and on standardized tests, Williams said teachers are making a greater emphasis on reading in all subjects.
“We’ve always focused on reading, English language arts and math ... and in the upcoming years we’ve started transitioning to building that science and social studies into informational text so not only are they reading for enjoyment, but they’re reading to get information [in other areas],” Williams said.
She said while there has been a national emphasis on reading, math is another story.
“Every district has been trying to figure out a way to attack math to make sure our students are able to handle it, not just [compute], but be able to go out and use it,” Williams said. “It has been a big challenge for us, so our teachers have spent a long time writing units and making sure [students] are actually able to use it in a real life experience.”
She added, “I think that’s what you’re seeing when you have 9 percent growth [from fourth to fifth grade].”
All scores for all grade levels and individual schools are available for view at www.doe.k12.ga.us.