Results of the state's CRCTs, including the retakes, have been announced and McDuffie County students met or exceeded the state average in five of the eight grade levels tested in reading, but fell below the state average in all but one grade level in math.
The Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests are given at the end of the year to first through eighth graders to measure how well students acquired the skills and knowledge described in the Georgia Performance Standards for that year.
First and second grade students are tested in reading, English/language arts and math. McDuffie first graders scored five points above the state average in reading, and four points higher in ELA. Second graders equaled the state average in both subjects.
"The greatest area of strength for the McDuffie County School System was in reading," Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Barry O'Neill said in a written report, adding that the success is attributed to a system-wide plan that includes small group instruction and flexible grouping of students to meet their instructional needs.
While third, fourth and eighth graders also scored at or above the state average in reading and ELA, the numbers were different for fifth, sixth and seventh graders. Fifth grade students only scored one to two points lower in both subjects. However, sixth graders scored nine points below the state average in reading, and seven points below in ELA. Seventh graders scored two points below the state average in reading and six points below it in ELA.
Those same seventh graders were the only McDuffie County students tested that scored above the state average in mathematics, however (one point higher). The greatest deficit in math scores - 10 points below the state average - fell to fourth graders. Eighth grade was second, scoring seven points lower.
To improve the fourth grade scores, the school board recently hired a math support specialist for Norris Elementary School, using stimulus funds. Dr. O'Neill said the system conducted a math data retreat in the summer of 2008, which resulted in new instructional materials being added in all grade levels. The school board recently was asked - and approved - to add curriculums that would give teachers other options besides the Saxon-only method that previously was taught.
Also, the board approved at their June regular meeting the hiring of math coaches for first through ninth grades. The coaches will provide assistance in the delivery of math instruction, analyze test data, revise benchmark assessments and emphasize practices to use within the classroom. The position also is funded through stimulus funds.
But even that was not enough for Junior High Principal Steve Rhodes. Dr. Rhodes said he made a personnel change in the math teacher for eighth grade since receiving his CRCT numbers.
Dr. Rhodes said he also added a math support class for eighth graders, as was done for ninth graders last year.
"Which is an extra math class. So, I'm going to add math support in eight grade also. So rising seventh graders will get two math classes if they are behind in math, and I think that will help," he said, adding that he feels last year's Ombudsman Alternative School scores hurt his numbers. "We try to do everything we can to help the kids."
The fourth through eighth grade students also scored below the state average in science. But Dr. O'Neill - who was once a science teacher himself - said even the state averages in science are low.
"With AYP, there is a huge interest in the core areas of reasoning, logical and critical thinking areas, and unfortunately there is only so many minutes in a day, and that is reflected nationally in the scores," Dr. O'Neill said.
No additional specialists have been added locally to help science scores. But McDuffie County teachers will focus more on combining the science material into the reading material to increase the students' exposure to it, Dr. O'Neill said.