Georgia students post gains on end-of-course tests

ATLANTA — Georgia high school students made slight improvements this year on end-of-course tests in U.S. history, economics, biology, physical science and English, according to new data released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.

In April 2011, the state Board of Education approved a plan to phase out the Georgia High School Graduation tests beginning with the class of 2015. State officials say end-of-course tests, which began in Georgia last year, are a better measure of how much students have learned.

Students showed the biggest gains in economics, with 77 percent passing, up from 72 percent last year. There was a one percent decrease in the number of students passing the Mathematics II exam, which includes geometry, Algebra II and statistics. Fifty-four percent of students passed that test this year.

Superintendent John Barge said he was encouraged by the increases.

"End-of-course tests are more rigorous than the Georgia High School Graduation tests, so increases are further testament to the great job our teachers are doing delivering the Georgia Performance Standards to students in a way that they are grasping," Barge said in a statement Tuesday.

Seventy-three percent of students passed the biology test, up from 70 percent last year. Seventy-seven percent passed the physical science test, up from 76 percent compared to spring 2011.

Eighty-four percent passed the ninth grade literature and eight-nine percent passed American literature and composition, up two and one percentage points from last year, respectively.

There was an increase in students passing the Mathematics I exam, which includes algebra, geometry and statistics. In this category, 65 percent of students passed, up from 61 percent last year.

Sixty-three percent of students passed the algebra test and 74 percent passed the geometry test. Both were new and not administered last year.

Georgia did away with the graduation test after trying to get rid of it for a decade, and states including North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Alabama have done the same. Many educators say the test was actually a barrier to graduation.