Associated Press Writer
ATLANTA - High school juniors in Georgia performed better this year in English, social studies and science than their predecessors, according to new data released Thursday by the state Department of Education.
But the number of students passing the math portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Test fell to 84 percent from 91 percent, the effect of a new, tougher curriculum that state officials say has confused some students because it blends algebra, geometry and statistics in each class rather than separating them each year. The state is giving districts the flexibility to choose what kind of math they offer next year rather than requiring the new curriculum because so many students had problems with it.
Nearly 15,000 out of the 93,000 students who took the math exam failed, data released by the state Department of Education show. The state is offering free, two-week courses this summer to help students who didn't pass brush up on math skills.
"A one-size-fits-all approach is not in the best interest of all of our students, but high expectations and our rigorous curriculum are right for all of them," said state schools Superintendent John Barge. "We expected a decline in results for the math portion of the (test), but based on feedback from school districts, we anticipated a more dramatic decline."
Students fared better on other parts of the test.
Ninety-three percent of students taking the test for the first time passed the science portion, up from 90 percent in 2010. Eighty percent of test-takers passed social studies, up from 78 percent in 2010, data show. And 91 percent of students passed the English test, up 1 percentage point.
Nearly 100,000 juniors took the exam this year.
"These scores give us a good indicator that students and teachers continue to rise to the challenge of a more rigorous curriculum," Barge said.
It's the last year that Georgia students will take the high school graduation test, which they must pass to get a diploma. The state is phasing out the test in favor of end-of-course exams starting in the fall.
Students in Georgia have been taking both kinds of tests for several years, but state officials say end-of-course tests are a better measure of how much students have learned. For example, juniors taking the graduation test may have to answer questions on a biology course they took in their freshman year.
The state has been trying for a decade to toss out the graduation test because many educators say it is a barrier to graduation. In the last few years, states such as North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Alabama have made the same move.
By the end of 2015, the Center on Education Policy predicts that up to 15 states will be using end-of-course tests as exit exams, up from five in 2008.