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More Students Scoring at Advanced Levels on Graduation Test (UPDATED 6/9)

MEDIA CONTACT: Matt Cardoza, (404) 651-7358,    - Follow us on  Twitter  and  Facebook     State-level Results   System-level Results   School-level Results    May 12, 2010  -- High school students are scoring at more advanced levels on the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT), especially in science and English Language Arts. Results on the mathematics GHSGT show a slight decrease, and results on the social studies GHSGT demonstrate for the first time the rigor of the new curriculum. State School Superintendent Kathy Cox released the statewide results at today's State Board of Education meeting.   "The results of the 2010 GHSGT are a mixed bag, but they definitely show that the GPS is working in English language arts and science as more students are performing at higher levels," Superintendent Cox said. "I want to commend teachers, students and school leaders for staying focused, especially in a very difficult year that presented a lot of budget-related challenges.”   Very strong progress was seen in the results of the science GHSGT, where the percentage of students scoring at the Advanced Proficiency or Honors level increased seven percentage points (57 percent) since the implementation of the GPS. The pass rate on the science exam was the lowest of all four content areas when students were taught the old curriculum and now, under the GPS, 90 percent of students are passing the science GHSGT. The percentage of black students passing the science GHSGT has increased 38 percentage points from 41 percent in 2003 to 79 percent in 2010. The difference in that percentage represents more than 19,174 students that are now eligible to graduate.   “These great science results show that ongoing, concentrated professional development works,” said Superintendent Cox. “I am so proud of our science teachers and their focus on ensuring that the students are mastering this curriculum.”   The percentage of students scoring at the Advanced Proficiency or Honors level on the English Language Arts GHSGT increased four points (57 percent) from 2008, when the GPS was first implemented.   Students scoring at more advanced levels on the English Language Arts GHSGT may be exempt from exams used to determine the need for remedial courses in college. This will allow students to immediately begin taking credit-bearing college courses rather than remedial courses or being unnecessarily tested again.   “The Technical College System of Georgia and the University System of Georgia are now saying that students hitting a higher mark on the GHSGT are prepared to succeed in college courses,” said Superintendent Cox. “This collaborative effort will save money for families of college-bound students, as well as taxpayers, because they won’t have to take remedial courses or be tested again.”   Ninety percent of students are also passing the English Language Arts GHSGT, a one percentage point increase from 2008, the first year GPS was taught.   For the first time this year, the GHSGT in social studies are completely GPS based. On the social studies exam, 78 percent passed the exam, an expected decrease from last year’s QCC-based exam (87 percent). However, the percentage of students who achieved Honors (17 percent) was higher than the English Language Arts and science GHSGT.   “Scores frequently decline when new assessments are implemented,” said 2010 Georgia Teacher of the Year Gwen Desselle, a high school social studies teacher. “This test is rigorous, and as students and teachers become more familiar with the new content, scores will increase just as they did with the previous version of the test and students will be better prepared.”   The results of GHSGT in mathematics showed a slight decline in student performance, but remained strong. Ninety-one percent of first-time test takers passed the exam, a three point decrease from 2009 (94 percent). These exams are still aligned to the QCC and are scored the same as in the past with three performance levels -- did not pass, pass and pass plus.   “While the percentage of students passing the mathematics GHSGT remains high, it is discouraging that only some of our kids have received a good math curriculum,” said Superintendent Cox. “We have redoubled our efforts and made sure all students are being taught high-quality standards in math, and we are seeing early signs of success from our 9th and 10th graders.”    Closing the Achievement Gap   Superintendent Cox was also pleased that scores show the achievement gap closing in many areas. For instance, the achievement gap between Hispanic and white students has narrowed by four percentage points from 14 to 10 in English language arts. In science, the achievement gap between black and white students has narrowed by two percentage points from 17 to 15. English Language Learners (ELL) are also closing the gap. In science, they have closed the gap on all test takers by three percentage points and in English Language Arts they have closed the gap by two percentage points.    Success with Project ExPreSS   The Exam Preparation for Science and Social Studies (ExPreSS) program is an effort aimed at students who did not pass the GHSGT in science or social studies. This past summer, more than 2,000 students received two weeks of intensive instruction and then had the opportunity to retest.   The overall pass rate on the 2009 retest was 68 percent; more than double the 2008 pass rate on GHSGT retests in science and social studies.   FreeOnline ExPreSS was offered for the first time this year by the GaDOE to all high school students and certificate of attendance recipients who were unsuccessful on or who had not taken the science and/or social studies GHSGT. The results from the FreeOnline ExPreSS will be coming out soon.    ABOUT THE GEORGIA HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION TESTS   The GHSGT are given to high school students for the first time in the spring of their junior year. All four portions of the test, plus the Georgia High School Writing Test, must be passed in order for a student to receive a full diploma from a Georgia public high school. Students can retake the GHSGT as many times as needed to pass the exams.   Since 2005, the state has been implementing the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS), a more rigorous and focused curriculum in the core areas of mathematics, English language arts, social studies and science. As the curriculum is phased in, the state's tests are being aligned to match the GPS.   Since the GHSGT assess cumulative knowledge, the new curriculum must be in place for three years before the exams can be fully aligned to the GPS. The science and English language arts GHSGT were aligned to the GPS for the first time in spring 2008. The social studies exam transitioned to a GPS test in spring 2010, and the mathematics exam will transition in spring 2011.   The new, GPS-aligned tests are graded on four scoring levels – below proficiency, basic proficiency, advanced proficiency and honors. The tests aligned to the old curriculum are scored on three levels – did not pass, pass and pass plus.    MORE INFORMATION:    Charts and Graphs    PowerPoint Presentation   Project ExPreSS