By the relatively new College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) ratings, Fayette County's schools continue to perform at an outstanding level relative to the rest of Georgia, and superintendent Dr. Jody Barrow says those scores could rise as principals and teachers become more familiar with the standards and expectations.
Assessment coordinator Kris Floyd presented the scores to the Board of Education at its most recent meeting, along with results for the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) given in grades three through eight and End of Course Tests (EOCT) used in high school.
The CCRPI scores she presented were from the 2011-12 school year, the first year the state issued them. The scores for last school year are expected by late October.
Floyd said the system's administrators were actually caught off guard when they received their scores from the state.
"We found out about it during the 12-13 year when they came back and gave scores we had no idea we were being scored on," Floyd said.
The ratings are based on a number of factors beyond test scores, she said, including year to year student improvement as well as the achievement gap, which is the gap between the lowest 25 percent of performers in the school system versus the overall state average. Floyd said the achievement gap is one of Fayette County's biggest strengths as a system. Perfect ratings were given at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
"We don't have a big gap between our lowest performing students and the state average, and that's something we're very proud of," Floyd said.
Overall, the elementary schools received a 94.8 out of 100, the middle schools a 94.6, and the high schools an 85.9. Floyd said that the lower high school score is indicative of different rating criteria rather than a true lower quality of education. She said all high schools in the state generally scored lower than the elementary and middle school levels, and at each level Fayette County was near the top statewide.
In terms of test scores, Floyd said the results of the CRCT and EOCTS exams showed Fayette County continues to be near the front of the pack, and is particularly strong in numbers of students "exceeding" the standards in various test categories.
"This is where we're not just pushing our students to a minimal competency but we're moving them beyond that to a higher level," Floyd said.
As an example, Fayette County had 70.2 percent of students exceed the standards in mathematics versus a state average of 47 percent exceeding. Similar gaps were seen in other subject areas. All of the results can be seen at fcboe.org.
At the high school level, Floyd explained why scores for Fayette County and the state in general were so low in coordinate algebra. Fayette secured pass rates somewhere between the mid 80 percent to high 90 percent for the rest of the subject areas, but only saw 63 percent pass coordinate algebra.
Floyd said that this was the rollout year for a new test in that subject that was intentionally made more rigorous and set a higher bar for passing. Floyd said the transition is taking place at the state level for all the tests as they will have higher "cut rates," meaning a higher number of correct responses a student must achieve to pass the test.
While the 63 percent number looks glaring, the state average pass rate was 36.9, and Fayette also bested the state average in students exceeding at 12.1 percent versus 4.5 percent.
"Compared to the state, we were one of the best performing systems. I think we're used to better, and I think we'll keep doing better, but once we got over that shock that was something to be proud of when you look at the rigor of that test, it wasn't an easy test. They really were delving into what the students know and if they truly understand it," Floyd said.
Barrow agreed, saying that the state upped the rigor of the test intentionally and that lower scores were likely.
"It was a conscious decision by the Department of Education to have the new test, have it more rigorous, and to have the cut scores much higher than before. All in all I think our folks did well out of the chute. We'll continue to push that envelope as we move forward," Barrow said.