July 19, 2008

More Bibb Eighth-Graders Pass Math Test This Summer

By Julie Hubbard, The Macon Telegraph, Ga.

Jul. 19--The number of Bibb County eighth-graders who passed a harder state math exam jumped by more than 20 percentage points after a summer retest, school officials announced Friday.

Fifty-eight percent of Bibb eighth-graders failed the math portion of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests after taking the exam the first time in April.

After those who failed got tutoring in summer school and retook the exam last month, only 37 percent of all eighth-graders failed, Bibb school officials said.

"Students learn at different rates, and the additional learning time allows more students to be successful," said Diana Rodgers, Bibb's deputy superintendent for teaching and learning.

The math and social studies portions of the CRCT have been controversial this year.

More students statewide failed the tests because some of the grade-level tests were aligned to new state curriculum.

Under that new curriculum, all eighth-graders this past school year were exposed to algebra and other advanced math concepts for the first time. Some school officials argued the students didn't have enough time to master it before the tests.

Traditionally, that level of math had been taught in high school.

While the state threw out sixth- and seventh-grade social studies CRCT scores after about 70 percent of students statewide failed the exams, the state chose not to invalidate math test scores.

About 40 percent of the state's eighth-graders failed the math exam in April, including 1,091 Bibb eighth-graders, sending a record number of students statewide to summer school.

Andrea Brown, 14, found out this week she passed the math retest this summer.

"It was a big relief," said Brown, who attended Howard Middle School in Bibb County. "I knew I did my best and wanted to make sure I passed. Now I can enjoy the rest of my summer."

The first time around, Andrea scored 797 -- 3 points from passing. She scored an 811 this summer. She earned a B in her regular math class but said her teacher didn't explain the content in a way she could understand.

Her mother, Wanda Brown, also argues there were too many "student disruptions" in her daughter's math class that may have prevented the teacher from his work.

"I learned stuff in summer school I wasn't learning in (regular) school," Andrea said. "Now I can go into ninth grade feeling like I can pass."

Eighth-grade students are required by state law to pass the CRCT in both reading and math in order to attend high school, although there is a loophole in the law.

Bibb school officials said those who did not pass either exam will have the right to appeal. The student's principal, teacher and parent can sit down and look at three years worth of the child's test data, class grades and other information to decide whether the student should be retained or promoted this fall.

One Bibb County math teacher says many students need to get more math help to keep them from struggling throughout high school.

"I think, personally, we need to evaluate what we're doing to make sure we are teaching the curriculum," Weaver Middle School eighth-grade math teacher Willett Waller said. "I realize some children did not pass, and some of the ones I taught didn't pass, so as a teacher I need to re-evaluate my delivery method to make sure all my kids are meeting the standards."

Waller said she also plans to meet with her incoming students' parents to go over the new math expectations. She said she hopes high school math teachers also take similar tactics.

"It is definitely higher level thinking, but that is how we will get them out there to compete (globally for jobs)," she said. "We're shooting for the stars and shooting high. But if we just reach the clouds, that's still a good place to be."

Eventually, students with the right help will get there, she said.

Hubbard, call 744-4331.

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