Ga. students improve on CRCTs

ATLANTA -- Georgia students performed better on state standardized tests this spring for the second year in a row.

Students improved scores in nearly every subject and grade level this spring on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, according to data released Wednesday by the Georgia Department of Education. For eighth-grade math -- which plummeted two years ago -- the pass rate increased to 74 percent, up from 62 percent in 2008.

Seventh-grade social studies improved from 64 percent last year to 71 percent this year.

''Our students are faring quite well,'' said schools Superintendent Kathy Cox on Wednesday during her last meeting as Georgia's schools chief. ''There's obviously still a lot of work to do, but Georgia's got the blueprint."

Cox is leaving office June 30 to become the chief executive officer of the U.S. Education Delivery Institute, a new Washington-based group aimed at helping states reach federal ''Race for the Top'' goals. Gov. Sonny Perdue has not named a replacement to fill out Cox's term, which runs through January.

During Wednesday's board meeting, she touted the state's efforts to close the achievement gap between minority and white students. In fifth grade, the percentage of Hispanic students passing the English language arts test is up 16 percentage points over five years, while white students have increased just 4 percent.

In third-grade math, nearly 80 percent of black students passed this year, compared to 66 percent in 2008. White students' scores rose just seven percentage points to 88 percent in the same period.

Despite the good news overall, there were a few small drops in scores. Second-grade reading and English language arts and first-grade math decreased between 1 and 2 percentage points, but all had 85 percent or more passing the test.

Still, Cox said she is pleased with the results after testing problems in 2008 that led to nearly 40 percent of eighth-graders failing the math test on the first try because it was tougher than in years past. The state also discarded the sixth- and seventh-grade social studies test scores in 2008 because officials found that the exam questions didn't match what students were taught in class.

The tests are given annually to first- through eighth-graders in Georgia in subjects including math, reading, English language arts, science and social studies.

The scores are part of what Georgia uses to calculate progress under federal No Child Left Behind standards. Schools that consistently perform badly on the measurements face sanctions such as required tutoring for students and allowing parents to transfer their children to higher performing schools.