On average, students in the Cobb School District improved by at least one percentage point in every subject matter when compared to last year’s scores, according to data released Wednesday by the Georgia Department of Education. They also scored higher than the state average in every subject of the EOCTs, which will be replaced with a new set of tests called the Georgia Milestones Assessments next year.
Cobb interim Superintendent Chris Ragsdale credited the students’ success to the district’s teachers.
“Even though the district has been plagued with budget crises and deficits, our teachers have still stayed the course,” he said. “They have still maintained their focus on the teaching and learning in the classroom, and it has absolutely showed in the test results.”
“For us, anytime you have improvement, we’re very pleased. And we always attribute that improvement to the wonderful teaching that’s taking place within the district.”
According to Greg Ewing, the district’s chief accountability and research officer, scores from the EOCTs represent 20 percent of a student’s final grade in all subjects except economics, where the test accounts for only 15 percent of the final grade.
EOCTs have been administered statewide to school students in a variety of subjects since 2000. This year, students were tested on Analytic Geometry for the first time. Other subjects tested this year include Ninth Grade Literature and Composition, American Literature and Composition, Coordinate Algebra, Biology, U.S. History and Economics/Business/Free Enterprise.
Coordinate Algebra was first administered during the 2012-13 school year, which is the reason some schools posted low scores in the subject, according to Ragsdale.
“Any time you have a new testing situation, you expect scores to dip because it’s a new test,” he said.
As a result, many of the largest year-to-year gains by schools were in the subject of Coordinate Algebra. Harrison High School improved by 11 percentage points, Kell High School improved by 10 percentage points and Pebblebrook High School and Wheeler High School both improved by 9 percentage points.
Only one school saw more than 80 percent of their students meet or exceed expectations in the subject: Walton High School in Marietta. The school also saw at least 94 percent of students meet or exceed expectations in every other subject. Ewing credited the teachers and the administration at the school for the students’ success.
“Walton … continues to show some of the strongest overall scores, and we offer many accolades to the faculty and administrators and (principal) Dr. Judy McNeill for consistent and excellent teaching and work,” he said.
The Coordinate Algebra test may have been difficult for the district’s high schools, but some younger students found it easy.
The school district also administered the Coordinate Algebra test to 23 middle schools in conjunction with a new class called Accelerated Algebra for Eighth Graders for the first time this year.
According to Ewing, five of the middle schools scored a 100 percent passing rate: Dickerson Middle, with 83 students tested; McCleskey Middle, with 22 students tested; Dodgen Middle, with 122; Palmer Middle, with 19; and Lost Mountain Middle, with 33.
Ehsan Kattoula, the district’s accountability and research director, said the middle school testing is part of a new emphasis on mathematics.
“It’s a trend that we’re trying (in order) to get Cobb County students to improve their understanding and their depth of knowledge in math, so that way they’re better prepared for a high school career and whatever (comes) … down the road,” he said.
Though most schools saw declines in some subjects, two schools in the district stand out because they did not see any declines: Pebblebrook and Pope high schools. Both schools saw their test scores either improve or stay the same when compared to last year.
Campbell High School in Smyrna saw the single biggest increase in the district: The percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards in Biology jumped 23 percentage points when compared to last year. Ewing credits both the teachers and the school’s principal, Denise Magee.
“We’re going to again attribute that to good teaching over there, and also it looks as if Dr. Magee is establishing a firm foundation in the building. And we’re now beginning to see the true benefits of her leadership,” Ewing said.
Other significant improvements occurred in the subject of U.S. History. Allatoona High School in Acworth improved by nine percentage points, while McEachern High School in Powder Springs improved by 13 percentage points.
Next year, the EOCTs will be replaced with the Georgia Milestones Assessments. According to Kattoula, the subjects tested will be the same, but the questions will be more difficult. Rather than simple multiple choice, students will be asked to generate a response on their own for some questions, he said.
Ragsdale said he wants students to be challenged. The quality of teachers in the district will prepare the students well for the tests.
“With the vast changes that are coming about, it is going to be challenging. They’re looking to have more rigorous testing, so we’re encouraged by that because we obviously want our students to be challenged, and we want them to perform well on these new tests. But the bottom line is our teachers, just as long as they keep doing the great work they’re doing, our students are going to perform well,” he said.