In the tests’ second year, both Cobb and Marietta schools improved their Georgia Milestones tests scores in most subject areas.

Cobb outpaced the state test averages in all areas, and Marietta increased its number of students who scored proficient or better on 18 of the 31 tests.

Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said the district’s success in the state required tests is the direct result of every teachers’ hard work in their classrooms.

Marietta Superintendent Emily Lembeck said she is pleased with the district’s scores, but she knows the district still has work to do.

“I know that we can bring these scores even higher this year and the year after,” she said.

The Milestones measure how well students have mastered the state’s content standards in language arts, mathematics, science and social studies for grades 3 through 8 in end-of-grade assessments. High school students take an end-of-course assessment for each of the 10 courses designated by the state school board.

Released Tuesday, the 2016 tests scores are broken into four categories: beginning learners, developing learners, proficient learners and distinguished learners, ranging from lowest to highest.

CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS

As reading on grade level by third grade and mastering math concepts by fifth grade are high priorities, the majority of both districts’ elementary schools have shown adequate mastery in both subject areas.

“I know that our test scores are teeming upward. Our focus is greatly enhanced this year on literacy and also on mathematics,” Ragsdale said.

About 78 percent of Cobb elementary students tested at least proficient in language arts, and about 74.3 percent of Marietta elementary students did so as well.

But some schools in both districts are struggling to further develop their students.

In Cobb, more than half of Riverside Intermediate School and Belmont Hills Elementary Schools students received the lowest score of “beginning learners” in the third grade language arts tests. Other Cobb elementary schools, including Clarkdale, Hollydale, Sedalia Park and Birney, had more than 30 percent of its third-grade students test as “beginning learners.”

About 40 percent of third-grade students at Park Street, Hickory Hills and Dunleith elementary schools in Marietta also received the lowest designation in language arts.

Both superintendents have plans to address the needed improvements.

Ragsdale said six of the Cobb School District’s elementary schools will participate in a rigorous literacy initiative this upcoming school year.

“It is truly to bring about extreme literacy intervention for schools,” he said.

Smyrna, Norton Park, Riverside Primary, Belmont Hills, Fair Oaks and Green Acres elementary schools will be the six sites.

Mary Elizabeth Davis, Cobb’s chief academic officer, said the district’s K-2 English language arts teachers and school principals were trained this summer on literacy learning initiatives to help better teach students the subject matter. She said teachers who teach third- through fifth-grade classes will be trained in that area this fall.

Lembeck said the Marietta school district will continue to support phonics instruction in the schools while looking at data in order to be aware of all students’ performances.

Lembeck said both Park Street and Dunleith have asked the Marietta school board for more staffing flexibility in order to engage and support students better.

Even though Park Street and Dunleith did not perform as well as other Marietta elementary schools, Lembeck said both schools improved in nine of 12 subject areas.

Testing proficient in fifth-grade mathematics is also a priority for the districts. Majority of schools in both districts did so, but some schools did fall slightly short.

About 43 percent of fifth-graders at Park Street Elementary tested as “beginning learners,” while fifth-graders at the Marietta Center for Advanced Academics’ fifth-graders tested 100 percent on or above grade level.

“We are celebrating the successes of all of our schools where we made improvements and continue to work with them to increase achievement in the schools,” Lembeck said.

More than 30 percent of fifth-graders at 15 Cobb schools — including Powder Springs, Riverside Intermediate and Brumby elementaries — also received the lowest scores. About 42 percent of fifth-graders at Milford Elementary received “beginning learners” designations.

For high school students, both districts celebrated improvements.

Aside from the two math end-of-course tests the state education department is in the process of phasing out — coordinate algebra and analytic geometry — the Cobb school district improved on the other 10 tests.

More than 95 percent of Lassiter, Walton and Pope High Schools received level 2 or higher on the end-of-course tests.

Marietta High School students also improved on four of the eight high-school level tests for which students took exams. Marietta students did not take the coordinate algebra or geometry tests, while the school’s American literature scores decreased by about nine points. Marietta’s physical science scores decreased by less than a point.

Lembeck said Marietta did not perform as well on the biology tests as the district’s score decreased by about nine points from its 2015 score. She also said the district needs to improve its algebra scores as well.

“I know we’ll be looking forward to more progress,” she said.

NEXT STEPS

With both school districts starting school next week, Marietta and Cobb students will start preparing for the next set of Milestones shortly.

Ehsan Kattoula, Cobb’s executive director of accountability and research, said the Cobb school district performed well overall, but the district will continue to identify students’ needs to customize learning strategies.

“Sometimes it takes time for that child to adjust to the type of learning that we have,” he said.

As Cobb pushes more math and reading skills this upcoming school year, Kattoula said the district will continue to customize its curricula based on data through looking on students’ testing trends.

Kattoula said the district’s principals will focus on their individual schools’ students and needs in order to tailor the curriculum to the students.

“They know the culture of their school,” he said. They know the necessity of their student body. They know the support the teachers need for them to improve the learning of all children in that school.”

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