The state tests are given each winter and spring to high school students to determine how knowledgeable a student is in English, literature, math, science and social studies.
There were nine tests given during the 2012-13 school year, one less than the year before. Math I was dropped from testing and Coordinate Algebra replaced the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) Algebra test in 2012-2013.
The difference between Coordinate and GPS algebras is essentially how students are taught various math lessons. Coordinate Algebra is associated with Common Core.
Algebra scores take a nosedive
This year’s decrease in algebra scores is something many districts throughout the state are seeing, and Cobb’s Chief Academic Officer Amy Krause said that is because the Georgia Department of Education changed its curriculum from Georgia Performance Standards to Common Core Standards.
“The course content was once again shifted and the result is Coordinate Algebra, the current freshman course,” she said Tuesday.
She said it isn’t quite fair to compare scores on the Coordinate Algebra and GPS Algebra.
“While we do want to look across years and across groups of students and their performance, it is not appropriate to compare each year’s results from one course to another course that contains very different content,” she said.
Fifty-eight percent of students tested overall in Cobb Schools failed the test, and in Clayton County it was 78 percent, Atlanta Public Schools, 77 percent, and in DeKalb County, 74 percent.
In 2011-2012, the percentage of students who passed the GPS Algebra test was 63 percent, 21 percentage points higher than the 42 percent who passed the Coordinate Algebra test last school year.
The schools that had the highest percentage of students pass the algebra test were Walton High in east Cobb with 82 percent; Pope High in northeast Cobb, 76 percent; and Kennesaw Mountain High in northwest Cobb, 70 percent.
Cobb’s three lowest pass rates were recorded at Pebblebrook High, 13 percent; South Cobb High, 17 percent; and McEachern High, 19 percent. All three schools are located in south Cobb County.
Algebra is the only test area in the 2012-13 End of Course Tests where the pass rate dropped.
Other topics included in the end-of-course tests are ninth-grade literature/composition, American literature/composition, math II, GPS geometry, biology, physical science, U.S. history and economics.
Student performance on the end-of-course tests is measured on a score range from 200 to 600 points, where 400 points or higher is considered “meeting” standards. Students who score between 450 and 600 points on the test are considered to be “exceeding” standards.
Room for improvement
Krause does recognize that algebra is an area in need of improvement.
“It is clear that we have work to do with this new course, as do other systems across the state,” she said. “This need is also recognized at the state level.”
According to metro Atlanta area testing data, many school districts, including the Cobb County School District, had failure rates above 50 percent on the Coordinate Algebra test.
State Superintendent John Barge said the Coordinate Algebra scores give his office a first look at the new level of rigor and expectations to meet standards, which has “increased significantly.”
“The new cut scores on the Coordinate Algebra test are more in line with the higher level of expectations required for students to get into post-secondary institutions and not need remediation, as well as the expectations many of today’s jobs require, which is why fewer students met or exceeded the standard,” he said.
“Over time, I am confident that our students will become more comfortable with the new level of rigor and will demonstrate that in their college and career readiness.”
Breakdown of tests scores
In 2013, 58,467 tests were given to high school students in Cobb Schools. This number is slightly less than in 2012 when 59,819 tests were given, but there was a reduction in the number of tests with the removal of Math I in this year’s round of testing.
The scores below show the county’s average percentage of high school students who passed the test, the three schools with the highest percentage of students who passed the tests, and the three schools with the lowest percent of students who passed the tests:
• Ninth-Grade Literature/Composition: Cobb average, 90%; Top, Walton and Lassiter, 99%; Harrison and Hillgrove, 98%; Bottom, Osborne, 75%; Pebblebrook and South Cobb, 80%;
• American Literature/Composition: Cobb, 95.4%; Top, Allatoona, Harrison, Lassiter, Pope and Walton, 99%; Bottom, South Cobb, 89%; Osborne and Pebblebrook, 91%;
• Coordinate Algebra: Cobb, 42%; Top, Walton, 82%; Pope, 76%; Lassiter, 70%; Bottom, Pebblebrook, 13%; South Cobb, 17%; McEachern, 19%;
• Math II: Cobb, 82%; Top, Lassiter, 99%; Pope and Harrison, 97%; Bottom, Pebblebrook and Kell, 65%; Osborne, 67%;
• GPS Geometry: Cobb, 80%; Top, Harrison, 98%; Lassiter, 97%; Walton, 96%; Bottom, McEachern, 62%; Campbell and Osborne, 65%;
• Biology: Cobb, 80%; Top, Lassiter, 99%; Walton, 97%; Hillgrove, 95%; Bottom, Campbell, 53%; Osborne, 61%; Pebblebrook, 62%;
• Physical Science: Cobb, 94%; Only two schools reported scores, Sprayberry, 54%; and Walton, 98%;
• U.S. History: Cobb, 82%; Top, Lassiter, 98%; Hillgrove and Pope, 95%; Bottom, Osborne, 54%; Campbell, 64%; McEachern, 71%; and
• Economics: Cobb, 87%; Top, Hillgrove, 98%; Pope, 97%; Lassiter, 96%; Bottom, Osborne, 66%; South Cobb, 73%; Pebblebrook, 75%.