School officials blame shift in curriculum for drop in Algebra scores
by Lindsay Field
August 14, 2013 12:16 AM | 5285 views | 13 13 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kell High School math teacher David Morgan explains how to solve a test problem in his class Tuesday.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Kell High School math teacher David Morgan explains how to solve a test problem in his class Tuesday.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
MARIETTA — A shift in the curriculum from Georgia Performance Standards to Common Core Standards is to blame for a 21-percentage-point drop in Algebra scores on the Cobb County School District’s most recent end-of-course tests, according to school officials.

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%.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Cobb Dad
August 18, 2013
According to the chart, Walton, Pope and Lassiter (not Kennesaw Mountain as stated in the article) were the 3 schools that had the highest percentage of students passing the algebra EOCT. Lassiter students passed at 70 percent while the chart states that 49% of Kennesaw Mountain students passed. This seems to have been an oversight by the editor.

Regardless, it appears the new math curriculum was not in line with the EOCT and this caused many of the kids to struggle with the test this year. It's also my understanding that the "curving system" used in prior years was changed this past year and this caused the scores to drop significantly.
Mom of 2
August 15, 2013
The opponents of Common Core have been screeching about the math being "dumbed down", perhaps they should look at the test scores, it appears the students are struggling with the new standards. Or we could blame the school board for NOT purchasing a math curriculum that aligned with the new standards when they were implemented LAST year.
August 15, 2013
It's all because teachers aren't paid enough. And they don't get enough time off. And they work too much. And their pension is too low. If we bumped up the salaries, gave 2 more weeks off, shortened the school day down to 4 hours so they only have to work 6, and pumped up the pension plan, then the scores would rise.
August 14, 2013
Maybe this has something to do with the CCSD having various sports coaches "teach" math. Our experience there is that they depend heavily on handing out worksheets and lists of tutors, rarely teach at all and are gone from the classroom or leave early to get to their sporting events. Just sayin....
Cobb Math
August 14, 2013
Amy Krause is a former math supervisor and content expert. Even she can't offer an explanation or get the curriculum in line for the new test ....perhaps she should start working on a curriculum plan instead of lying to the Board at each meeting about every topic she speaks on.....just watch the meetings!
August 14, 2013
We are quite acute of the obtuse plans of the state to triangulate the scores
Typical American
August 14, 2013
Something something something lazy teachers. Something something over paid something. Something summers off something something accountability something something fire them all.
August 14, 2013
That is the best post I have read in a LONG time.
suzy math
August 14, 2013
Please take a look at the math curriculum, and let's find a way to teach it. My kids can't do math - the way it's taught in the school system today I can't do either. I don't think there needs to be a new, improved way to teach math - these test scores prove it.
algebra scores
August 14, 2013
Algebra scores down and the excuses just keep coming! That's one area where the school system is never deficient.
public schooled
August 14, 2013
Where are City of Marietta's results? Are they not participating in this? Or would it not look favorable for East Cobb to have City of Marietta reported in this story?

So much for property values in East Cobb where the people who rail against Government Schools go into as much debt as possible to buy into the district of the "best" ones.. These "best" ones have just been exposed as frauds!

Something Not Right
August 14, 2013
Ok...something is strange when schools like Walton, Lassiter and Harrison, who had the highest scores under GPS, significantly drop under Common Core. Did these schools have an influx of students who lack math skills or lack a work ethic towards academics? Or is just the curriculum? Go a step further, maybe this is by design to disarm, frustrate and destroy our education system. Do the research starting with Krushchev and the Communist takeover of America.
August 14, 2013
Commissars Krause and Hinojosa have some explaining to do!
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