The State Department of Education recently released the Georgia Student Achievement Scores (CCRPI) from this past school year. The Jefferson City School System did very well, registering the second highest overall scores in Georgia. At the conclusion of the previous year, Jefferson's scores were the highest in the state. Georgia public schools are required to give a large number of student achievement tests, a fact that regularly garners considerable criticism. Prior to 1980, no achievement tests were required whatsoever other than those associated with federal programs and college admission. What happened to bring about this change in direction?
Between 1983 - 1987, I served as principal of Jefferson High School. During the summers, I served as an on-campus administrator for the Georgia Governor's Honors Program. It was my responsibility to implement and monitor the contractual agreement between the State of Georgia and Valdosta State University. This provided me with a statewide perspective I would not have had otherwise.
The Georgia State Department of Education began its required achievement testing program in 1980. Prior to this, Georgia school systems wrote their own curriculum guides and all student tests were written locally. Considerable differences often existed regarding student academic preparation. This was subject to being the case even within the Governor's Honors Program, which was designed for the benefit of the most capable and talented students throughout the state.
The first state-required assessment instrument was named the Georgia Basic Skills Test. It measured rudimentary skills in reading and mathematics. The following set of events actually occurred at Jefferson High School. I believe that it serves as a good example of why the Georgia Basic Skills Test proved a springboard to a much more expansive assessment program. A student transferred to Jefferson High School from a location in middle Georgia. The student's report card displayed the grade of "B" in an advanced mathematics course. The teacher assigned to teach the same course at JHS was Jack Keen. Jack was soon convinced that an error had occurred in the transfer process. When the student's official transcript arrived by mail, it agreed with the report card. However, attached to the transcript were the student's Georgia Basic Skills Test results establishing that the student had twice failed the mathematics section of the test. Somehow, a student earning the grade of "B" in an advanced mathematics course being taught in a Georgia high school had been unable to pass a test designed to measure basic mathematics skills.
This year's state allocation for public education in Georgia is $9,637,739,075.00. Competition with other states hoping to recruit business and industry is a continuous process. A state or community claiming to offer a quality educational program is not sufficient. Verifiable and credible evidence is expected. In addition, the degree of student intrastate mobility increases annually. There must not be major gaps and expectations between one Georgia school system and another.
Maureen Downey, a writer for the AJC, addresses public education matters regularly. One of her most recent articles touches on this very important topic. It is attached below.