Cobb students shine on new version of standardized test
by Hannah Morgan
January 23, 2014 12:15 AM | 4834 views | 12 12 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print

A.L. Burruss Elementary School first-graders Emily Nix and Jaylin Hunter work together on their assignment in Christine Galpin’s classroom.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
A.L. Burruss Elementary School first-graders Emily Nix and Jaylin Hunter work together on their assignment in Christine Galpin’s classroom.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
MARIETTA — Cobb students scored well above their peers this year on the new version of the Iowa Assessments, but better in English language arts than in math.

Third-, fifth- and seventh-grade students took the tests, which in September replaced the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills formerly used by Cobb.

The new test is tied to the Common Core standards, said Cobb Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci. It was changed so it would cover the new national standards, she said.

Students were tested in English language arts, reading, social studies, math and science, and their scores were compared with students across the country.

Scores from the new assessments cannot be compared to previous ITBS scores, but will be used to measure student improvement from this point forward, said Doug Goodwin, a spokesman for the district.

The Iowa Assessments test ranks student performance according to percentiles, which means Cobb’s student scores can be compared to student scores in districts across the country.

The national average of the test is 50 percent.

Above national average

Sixty-three percent of elementary schools in the district had average composite scores above the national average, and 67 percent of seventh- graders ranked above the 50th percentile, according to a district report.

Math was the weakest area for Cobb fifth- and seventh-graders, both grades ranked in the 60th percentile, according to test results. While still 10 points above the national average of 50, fifth- and seventh-grade students scored in the 66th and 64th percentiles in math.

Angelucci said the math scores were lower than she expected, but attributes the low scores to the change in the test.

Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said the district had been working to get the district’s math scores up, and he was pleased with the recent scores.

“These results show that our students stack up very well. At all three grade levels in every subject area, our students easily topped the national averages, even in math, where we have really focused our attention recently. That is reassuring and is a testament to the hard work of our outstanding teachers,” he said.

Angelucci wants the board to find out exactly what they can infer from the scores.

Even though they can’t be directly compared to previous test scores, she believes the superintendent can explain to the board where and why progress has been made.

She predicts the board will discuss the scores with Hinojosa at a board work session in February.

“It’s really hard to determine where growth should be until we have more time to compare” the scores, Angelucci said.

Uneven scores, uneven schools

As in years past, the top scores came from schools in east and north Cobb, while many of the lowest-performing schools were in south Cobb.

School board member David Morgan, who represents south Cobb on the board, said he was not surprised with the results.

He has been encouraging the board to change some of the practices in south Cobb schools, most recently advocating for withholding graduation tickets from uninvolved parents and having the district undergo an academic audit. Both ideas were soundly rejected by the rest of the board.

“It underscores what I said at the last meeting. It is a moral obligation and we have to deliver education differently to a part of the district that has chronically underperformed. Until we do that we will see similar results,” Morgan said.

He believes the scores from south Cobb schools will not change without a change from the board.

“There’s no single silver bullet, but there are quantifiable things we could put in place that would improve the schools,” Morgan said. “We have to address the elephant in the room, and, until we do that, to me, what it reeks of is a comfort with the status quo that is unacceptable.”

Angelucci wasn’t sure what to make of the discrepancy between north and south Cobb schools. She hadn’t had enough time to analyze the data yet. However, she planned to speak with the superintendent about specific areas for growth.

“What have they specifically been working on in south Cobb schools, how can we show our students in south Cobb are progressing?” she asked.

Breakdown of scores

The complete composite scores, which factor in English language arts, science, social studies, math and reading scores, were all above the national average for third, fifth and seventh grades.

For third grade students, the overall composite score was 59. This means 59 percent of third-graders scored equal to or better than all third-graders who took the test nationwide.

Cobb third-graders scored best in science, ranking in the 63rd percentile nationally, and also in English language arts, where they ranked in the 59th percentile. They scored a 58 in math, as well as in reading.

Mount Bethel Elementary third-graders scored exceptionally well overall, with a composite score of 87, according to district results. Third- graders at Keheley Elementary and Sope Creek also performed well above the national average. Their composite scores were 84 and 85, respectively. These schools are all located in northeast Cobb.

The lowest third grade composite scores were from schools in south Cobb, including LaBelle Elementary, with a composite score of 28, and Fair Oaks Elementary, which scored a 26.

Fifth-grade students ranked in the 60th percentile in reading, the 66th percentile in English language arts and the 60th percentile in math. Overall, Cobb fifth- graders ranked in the 63rd percentile nationally.

Keheley Elementary fifth-graders scored an 83 overall, while those at Sope Creek scored in the 86th percentile nationally. Belmont Hills and Argyle Elementary produced the some of the lowest overall scores, ranking in the 31st and 34th percentile, respectively.

Seventh-graders ranked in the 61st percentile nationally, according to the results. They scored in the 57th percentile in reading, the 64th in English language arts and 60th in math.

Dickerson Middle and Dodgen Middle Schools both scored in the 85 percentile nationwide. Both schools are in east Cobb. Lindley Middle, in south Cobb scored a 36, as did Garrett Middle School, in Austell.

Marietta Schools opts out of Iowa

Marietta City Schools did not test students this fall with the Iowa Assessments, and only tested students in math and reading last spring, said Thomas Algarin, a spokesman for the district. Because each test is scored and weighted differently, it is not possible to compare last spring’s results from Marietta to Cobb’s fall scores, he said.

Gwinnett Public Schools did not have their test results Wednesday, said Jorge Quintana, a spokesman for the district.

“Because the test was reconfigured, we cannot compare this year’s scores to last year’s, but the real value of the Iowa test is that we can see how Cobb students perform in comparison to other students across the nation who took the same test,” Hinojosa said.

Cobb students traditionally scored well above the national averages in the ITBS.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Austell Resident
January 25, 2014
The picture emerging across Cobb schools is dispariate education results are confined to zip codes that have prediminately minority enrollment. This is troubling.

Continually blaming the low test scores on transiency, economics, and parenting amounts to blaming the victim. Cobb board and administration should search their souls for a better explanation. The responsiility of leadership rests heavily on them.

Recognition of a problem is the first step toward its sloution and the man in the mirror must start with his own reflection.
Cobb School Advocate
January 23, 2014
Some of these scores look pretty good and some need drastic change - now, exactly who is the "peer group" of kids taking this test ?

I see that Marietta is not, what about all of the counties execept Gwinnett and then what states or other districts are using this yardstick ?

I am concerned that this is not a very good yard stick for Cobb to measure it's kids with ???
January 23, 2014
"Angelucci wasn’t sure what to make of the discrepancy between north and south Cobb schools."

It's simple: POVERTY.IS.LINKED.TO.EDUCATIONAL.SUCCESS. However, attacking teachers is easier than attacking poverty so expect another round of the blame game. South Cobb has more poverty, crime, transiency, gang activity, second language families. These student require intense intervention which requires smaller class sizes. While there is no "magic bullet" until Cobb citizens are willing to pay more in taxes to hire more teachers this problem will persist. Seeing the need for quality schools and how it links to one's property value requires and education and as such I don't expect much support from South Cobb residents as these adults are themselves the product of the broken Cobb system. Soon their children will be tax payers in Cobb and the cycle will spin on into oblivion.

English Teatime
January 23, 2014
Kids in LaBelle and Fair Oaks are mostly Hispanic, and many have parents that do not speak English. Their young children have to act as interpreter. How are they supposed to get help at home with homework, etc., so that they will score well on a standardized test? And, the parents that do not speak English don't really care to learn. I know that from my Hispanic neighbors.
Lucy S. Williams
January 23, 2014
I believe throwing Fair Oaks Elementary out there is not helping your case. If you look at their school scores, parent participation and quality of teachers - they are doing an incredible job, demographics aside.
Whiz Kid
January 23, 2014
CCSD Board has their heads in the sand on the scope of the discrepencay across the system as they continue to blame the victim.
Sgt. Juanita Lopez
January 23, 2014
Let's be certain that while we don't blame the victim we also don't blame the teacher. Here's an analogy: A coach had a player who was paralyzed from the waist down by a hit-and-run driver. The player couldn't play very well, the team lost many games, the coach was fired. In our analogy the coach is a teacher, the player is a student, the hit-and-run driver is poverty/absentee parents, and the "games" are standardized testing. What's really sad is the coach got to have tryouts and cut players who didn't come to practice or dress out. The coach had 9 assistants and a stadium full of parents cheering him on. The coach will get another job with a new team based on his many past winning seasons. The teacher has NONE of those luxuries.
Lib in Cobb
January 23, 2014
Standardized testing does not make a level playing field, no matter which test is given. The tests, compare all the students in the US or the state. How can we expect a child who is perhaps living in chaos where the mother is a single parent and cannot provide for her children adequately to a child in Buckhead, where there may be a two parent family, with lots of food, computers, tutors, a good night's sleep every night, a warm house. The state and the nation is expecting the poor child to do as well as the affluent child. The child who lives in chaos brings that chaos to school.

We cannot and should not blame the teacher because the poor child does not perform as well as the affluent child.

The schools are only fooling themselves by thinking that standardized testing is fair.
Which Way Ray
January 23, 2014
When you go to the schools in the South...teachers spend a great deal of time "teaching" how to behave vs how to read, write, and math.

Its reverse in the other areas. Just go and watch if you don't believe it. The responsibility boils down to what happens at home.

If you took the teachers from the south and put them in the north schools and vice verse you'd get the same results.
Lib in Cobb
January 23, 2014
@WhichWayRay: Thank you, there is a reason why public schools in CT and MA do very well in the various standards which schools, students and teachers are judged by. At best, being a school teacher in some states is the equivalent of herding cats.
teacher of the south
January 23, 2014
I can assure you that teachers in South Cobb are teaching academics just as much if not more than teachers in other areas. Behavior issues cross all socio-economic levels. The difference is simply lack of life experiences that are afforded to the affluent.
January 23, 2014
Someone actually gets it. I taught for years in South Cobb while my children attended schools in North Cobb. I saw wonderful, intelligent, compassionate, hardworking, diligent, creative, driven, accountable teachers in BOTH parts of the county. When Cobb built a new North Cobb school more than half of my peers were reassigned there. Suddenly, "magically" they became GREAT teachers and had excellent student scores. What changed I wonder????
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