2008-05-28 / Community

Social studies test scores thrown out

From Georgia Trend's Business Daily
By Brandon Larrabee

ATLANTA - The state will throw out the results of social studies tests after only 20 percent or 30 percent of sixth- and seventh-graders passed, state schools Superintendent Kathy Cox decided Wednesday.

Cox e-mailed school district superintendents Wednesday afternoon to let them know about the change, apparently aimed at tamping down outrage over the scores and questions about the state's highly touted new curriculum.

"Simply, the performance appears to be implausibly low, which raised serious questions," Cox said in her e-mail. "After intense scrutiny of the standards and the assessment, we have come to the conclusion that these scores are not trustworthy measures of student achievement in social studies."

Cox did not give a more specific reason why she threw out the results. She previously said that a new curriculum introduced this year might have led to the unusually high failure rate.

State officials unveiled the new curriculum to great fanfare in 2004, saying it would change Georgia's weak set of standards into one of the strongest in the nation.

Wednesday was the second time this week Cox was forced to respond to the controversy over scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, or CRCT, which the state uses to measure progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

In addition to the results in social studies, only about 60 percent of eighth-graders are likely to pass the math portion of the test, according to state officials, who have cautioned that the numbers are estimates because statewide results haven't been calculated.

Some education groups hailed the move.

"That was absolutely the right thing to do," said Herb Garrett, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association.

Some observers had questioned whether the scoring was flawed, but Cox rejected that idea in her e-mail.

"It is important to note that we found nothing technically incorrect with the scoring of these assessments," she said. "This decision is based primarily on the conviction that we need to revise the curriculum and the assessments to better evaluate the knowledge and skills that represent student achievement in social studies."

Cox repeated her pledge to put together a group of educators to examine what went wrong. But her e-mail seemed to indicate the group might have a wider mandate than her original message suggested. Cox said they would "revise the social studies curriculum in grades 6 and 7 and help us begin the process of developing new assessments for these grades."

In her e-mail, Cox did not address results in eighthgrade math, scores that have more practical implications for students and schools. Those who don't pass the test have to take it again or risk repeating the grade; that exam also will be counted against whether schools meet federal standards.

"There are plenty of folks across the state who are suspicious of those results, also," Garrett said.

Return to top