CRCT stands for Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and, according to the Georgia Department of Education, the CRCT "is designed to measure how well students acquire the skills and knowledge described in the Georgia Performance Standards."
The CRCT is one component of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and tests students in grades one through eight. It tests first- and second-graders in the areas of reading, English/language arts and math. Third- to fifth- and eighth-graders are additionally tested in science and social studies and all grade levels after second grade are tested in science.
"The CRCT isn't something we study for specifically in our school curriculum," Associate Superintendent Ben Desper said. "It's something we prepare for all year."
Director of Testing Michael Huneke agreed.
"The CRCT is basically a final exam of material students have been learning since the start of the year," Huneke said.
Huneke said the school system began training school test coordinators last week in order to maintain a "clean system."
In 2009, the system partnered with the company Performance Matters, which provides data management and assessment services for school systems.
"[Performance Matters] has really helped us to dive into the data to know if students are learning the concepts or not," Huneke said.
Huneke went on to explain Performance Matters allows for more focus on individual student needs through bench mark testing at three separate points during the year.
"Math is our weakest subject area and we're definitely looking at that more closely and are trying to push ourselves," Huneke said. "We're not necessarily emphasizing more of the CRCT, but we are going to continue with our curriculum. When you teach, the test scores will be there."
Huneke said it was important for parents not to put too much pressure on their children near testing time.
Cloverleaf Elementary School has consistently done well on the CRCT for the past several years, regularly scoring first or second highest in the county for each grade level and category.
For example, 99 percent of fifth-graders last year met or exceeded the scores in all categories.
Testing coordinator and counselor Niki Patterson and Assistant Principal Dovie Paulk gave insight as to how they've been able to maintain high testing scores.
"Basically what we do is we start in June, looking at the results of the April test and see how the kids did as a whole," Patterson said. "We then look at the results from our at-risk kids and our kids who are almost exceeding."
Paulk said it was important to not only assist with students who are not passing the exam, but to help the ones who are exceeding the standard.
"We want all of our students to do well [on the CRCT]," Paulk said.
Patterson and Polk said after scores are evaluated, the methods of action for test improvement are implemented at the beginning of the next school year.
"We set up the appropriate intervention for our kids through different 'pull-out' groups," Patterson said.
Patterson said "pull-out" groups focus primarily on at-risk students rather than those who are close to exceeding.
"We want to target those who are having difficulty passing first," Patterson said.
Paulk said most importantly the CRCT aligns with the school's curriculum.
"The goal is to teach our curriculum and exceed wherever we can," Paulk said.
Huneke said it was important for parents to remember that the CRCT will be given during the spring, when students will be involved with extracurricular activities.
"We understand baseball and other activities will be going on during testing," Huneke said, "but make sure your children get plenty of rest and good, balanced meals. [The students] understand the importance of the test and will step up to the task."