The GHSGT are given to high school students in the 11th grade for the first time each spring and passing the four portions of the test -- English Language Arts, math, science and social studies -- is required to obtain a full high school diploma in the state of Georgia. However, the State Board of Education recently approved for the tests to be phased out beginning with incoming freshman in fall 2011 not being required to take the tests, giving more weight to end-of-course tests.
About 73 percent of first-time test takers in Bartow County passed all portions of the graduation test, on par with the state average of 73 percent, and about 77 percent of Cartersville High School first-time test takers passed the tests.
Cartersville High School's pass rate surpassed the state in all areas except social studies, which, at 76 percent, fell short of the state's 80 percent. In the areas of English Language Arts and science, the county overall did not match the state scores, falling short by a marginal 2 percent in each area -- at 89 to 91 percent and 91 to 93 percent, respectively.
The city's math pass rate was at 96 percent, surpassing the state average of 84 percent.
"I think the high school teachers are doing an exceptional job teaching the curriculum and assuring the students have mastered the curriculum," said Peggy Cowan, director of curriculum for the Cartersville City School System. "We're especially proud of the math. The math represents the first time that the graduation test has been nothing but the integrated math curriculum. ... and throughout the state, everyone's scores went down but ours actually went up and were significantly higher than the average at the state level at 96 percent. What this does is it reinforces the system's decision to stay with the integrated math, which is a very rigorous, demanding math program, and our students are handling it well."
Compared to Bartow County first-time graduation test takers in 2010, the individual schools saw increases in every area except for math and a 1 percent drop in English Language Arts at Cass High School from 86 to 85 percent.
Notable increases from last year in Bartow include Adairsville High School's science and social studies pass rates, which respectively improved from 89 to 95 percent and 76 to 85 percent; the CHS social studies pass rate from 72 to 81 percent; and Woodland High School's science pass rate from 88 to 93 percent. The notable decreases are in math, with the AHS pass rate decreasing from 92 to 81 percent, CHS from 89 to 82 percent and WHS from 90 to 86 percent.
Director of Secondary Curriculum Jim Gottwalt said the decrease in math could be attributed to the implementation of integrated math on the test.
"Ever since [the math curriculum] changed [to integrated math], the test scores have not been very good, and I think that's one of the reasons the State Board of Education has allowed the districts to decide whether they wanted to continue with the integrated math," Gottwalt said.
The board approved this year to phase out integrated math within two years and replace the curriculum with discrete math.
"Obviously we're thrilled that we got some increases," Gottwalt said. "I think in all the subject areas, at the worst, we [nearly] met the state in all the subject areas and we're pleased with that, but we're not satisfied that we're not above the state average."
Bartow County also saw a decrease in the number of first time test-takers from 846 to 822, which Gottwalt said also could be a contributing factor to decreases, and Cartersville High School saw an increase in first-time test takers from 213 to 226.