Op-Ed by Superintendent Richard Woods
to news reports you may have seen last week, Georgia is not “at the bottom of
the nation” in math and reading.
study released recently by the National Center for Education Statistics –
“Mapping State Proficiency Standards onto NAEP Scales” – reminded us that under
the old Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), the bar set for Georgia’s
students was far too low.
however, as the results of the study were reported, that message got muddled.
Multiple media reports explained, incorrectly, that the study showed Georgia at
the “bottom of the nation” in reading and math performance. That’s a factually
and contextually inaccurate interpretation of this study.
NCES study uses a complex formula to estimate where the CRCT’s expectations for
student achievement in grades 4 and 8 reading and math would have fallen on the
2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The study did not use
actual 2013 NAEP scores – which do exist, and which showed Georgia students
making gains in multiple areas, including scoring one point above the nation in
fourth-grade reading. These actual scores were not part of the NCES study.
the study does show is that, under the CRCT, Georgia set the bar for its
students far too low. That’s a serious problem, but it’s something we already
knew. We’ve already taken the necessary steps to rectify the issue. The new
Georgia Milestones Assessment System, which replaced the CRCT starting with the
2014-15 school year, sets a significantly higher bar for student proficiency.
I’ll be entirely candid: that means scores, initially, will be lower. It
does not mean that Georgia students know less. But we’re not here to make sure
students score well on a test. We’re here to make sure they’re learning, and
that means setting high standards and evening the playing field with the rest
of the nation.
value the information provided by the National Assessment of Educational
Progress, and the efforts of the news media to inform the public about Georgia
education, flaws and all. This is not a defense of the low bar Georgia set
through previous assessments.
should know, however, that while this study provided valuable information, it
did not show that our students are “last” in the nation. That’s simply not a
Richard Woods, a 22-year public school educator and
former small business owner, is Georgia’s School Superintendent.