School chief: Georgia grad rate will drop at least 10 points

At a joint House and Senate Education Committee today, State School Superintendent John Barge said that he expects the Georgia high school graduation rate — now at about 80 percent — to dip at least 10 percentage points this year when Georgia adopts a new federally mandated formula to count dropouts.

As did Senate Education Chair Fran Millar, in making the same prediction of a lower high school grad rate earlier this month, Barge emphasized that Georgia has been making steady progress.

On top of the formula dip, Barge warned of another possible plummet next year in grad rates because of the extreme failure rates of high school students in the new integrated math.

He outlined several ways to allow kids to pass the math portion of the Georgia High School Graduation test, including breaking the test down to its domains/components — algebra, statistics, geometry and numbers and equations — and letting students only retake the parts that they fail. The state may also seek permission to use passage on the End of Course Test to count for the GHSGT math test.

Barge also wants support classes in Math I and Math II to count toward the math requirements that a high school student must have to graduate in Georgia. Those support classes do not count now, which means there are high school students who have yet to amass a single math credit toward their graduation requirements as they haven’t been able to get through Math I or II and are in support classes, Barge warned. (Barged said there are both sophomores and juniors in this predicament, but a poster questioned whether you could be advanced to your junior year  without a math class under your belt.)

Barge also elaborated on his plan to allow systems to continue to teach the integrated math — where students are taught math across domains in a single class, advancing in complexity and rigor — or return to traditional math, algebra, geometry, for example, instead of Math I and II

Yes, there are many critics of the new math, but there are also many proponents. I have been hearing from them since Barge made his announcement of a dual math tracks last week at a state board meeting.

(In comments here in the committee, it appears some lawmakers regard the state board as an obstacle to changing back to the old math. Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams asked Barge how open the board was to his plans. “We’re getting there,” said Barge.  I think it will interesting to watch the unfolding of the relationship between Barge and the board, a group with whom I have been very impressed because of their focus on students, their grasp of education issues and their lack of personality clashes.)

After the meeting, I talked to folks who wondered if Georgia teaches two forms of math whether one of them, likely the traditional format, eventually will be viewed as the dummy track.

Barge didn’t seem to think there would be any shadow over either math program, that would be essentially be the same content delivered in different vessels.

“We have found with the integrated math curriculum for a number of students, it’s the delivery. It is not the rigor,” said Barge. “The students tell me they don’t have time to focus on a single concept before they move onto something else, making it difficult for them to have a firm foundation of any of it.”

“Some systems are doing a very good job with integrated math and their students are being successful,” Barge said. “We want to offer flexibility to systems that are struggling by allowing them to offer the traditional approach. We are not talking about reducing rigor.”

Barge said a single school system could offer both forms of math. “We will leave that up to the systems,” he said.

Barge reiterated his plan to create “career clusters” in which there will still be a single diploma but vocational tracks in place to get there. Geometry could be taught through construction, which offers the hands-on approach and real-life relevancy that some students need, Barge said.

Now, lawmakers are asking Barge questions about whether the changes to math will maintain the rigor and whether vo-tech will again be seen as a less talented stepchild of the college prep courses. “I am concerned that we might fall back to bad old days when kids taking vocational tracks need easier civics classes to pass,” said state Rep. Ed Setzler.

Barge assured the committee that the vo-tech tracks will not be neglected stepchildren and will incorporate tough courses.

He also told the committee that we test too much in Georgia. Get Schooled posters who would like to see Georgia schools use the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and abandon the state’s Criterion Referenced Competency Test will appreciate Barge’s response to a question on preferred testing approaches.

“Me personally, I would agree with you that a norm-referenced test is preferable than a criterion-referenced test. ”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

85 comments Add your comment

TimeOut

January 27th, 2011
4:09 pm

Many teachers support the implementation of national, norm-referenced testing and the shelving of the CRCT. As a teacher and a parent, I want to know my student is performing in comparison to students throughout the nation, and not just in Georgia.

GeeMac

January 27th, 2011
4:10 pm

Hooray for the acknowledgement of norm-referenced assessments as preferable to CRCT. As I commented yesterday, moving to Common Core should drive the development and implementation of national norm-referenced tests of the CC curriculum, thereby eliminating the need for CRCT and GHSGT and possibly EOCTs.

GeeMac

January 27th, 2011
4:16 pm

I also applaud the idea of career cluster pathways to graduation; however, in my tiny system our CTAE offerings are already severely limited and will be even more so thanks to continued budget cuts and declines in property tax collections. I’d be interested in hearing Mr. Barge’s suggestions on how systems can addrress this problem.

atlmom

January 27th, 2011
4:28 pm

How about we get away from this idea that the state can dictate education and have it trickle down and work? It hasn’t been working for decades.
How about the graduation rates are artificially high and when they are measured correctly, maybe we’d see they are at 65%?

Would you teach?

January 27th, 2011
4:35 pm

Re:
“Those support classes do not count now, which means there are high school juniors who have yet to amass a single math credit toward their graduation requirements as they haven’t been able to get through Math I or II and are in support classes, Barge warned.”

Actually students who have not ammassed a single math credit are not juniors (at least in Cobb). New promotion rules mandate at least one credit in math to move from grade 9 to grade 10. These kids should be juniors, have failed math, and thus not promoted. I’m not sure if this is a Cobb rule or a state rule, but Dr. barge is right. The grad rate beginning with the class of 2012 is set to PLUMMET.

Would you teach?

January 27th, 2011
4:37 pm

How about they just skip the math grad test all together? Clearly there are problems with the implementation of the curriculum, the grad test is due to go away anyway in a couple of years, and to me it seems unfair to make the class of 2012 the sacrificial lambs yet again.

GeeMac

January 27th, 2011
4:37 pm

Atlmom- We do need the state to set standards and minimum requirements, otherwise systems could manipulate achievement rates by setting the bar too low. Having said that, I agree that more control needs to be returned to the local level in how they decide to meet the standards and reqirements. Too much interference from state and federal government has been a disaster.

Would you teach?

January 27th, 2011
4:39 pm

@Maureen:
Re: “He outlined several ways to allow kids to pass the math portion of the Georgia High School Graduation test….”
What OTHER ways were outlined besides the one you mentioned-(letting kids re-take parts of the test)?

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

January 27th, 2011
5:01 pm

Godspeed to Dr. Barge and his team as they come to grips with The Gordian Knot that is public education in our state! Hopefully, they’ll discover an Alexandrian sword and wield it effectively.

bootney farnsworth

January 27th, 2011
5:01 pm

if they become an honest representation of how well we are – and are not educating our kids,

let them drop

Fire Bad Teachers

January 27th, 2011
5:02 pm

Why not just make the math portion of the Georgia High School Graduation easier? That’s another way to allow kids to pass the test.

Ernest

January 27th, 2011
5:07 pm

Count me among those that would rather utlize the ITBS over the CRCT for the reasons mentioned. Are we also going to hold anyone accountable for giving citizens ‘False Hope’ with the graduation rates over the previous years? I contend those in charge knew that ‘voodoo’ calculations were being used to derive the graduation rates.

atlmom

January 27th, 2011
5:18 pm

@geemac: how about get rid of school systems and administrations altogether and let parents send the kids to whatever schools they want – so the PARENTS get to choose the curriculum? What we’re doing is not working.

Maureen Downey

January 27th, 2011
5:19 pm

@Would you teach. Subbing EOCT scores in math for the math GHST, with approval of US DOE, to meet accountability.
Maureen

GHSGT

January 27th, 2011
5:25 pm

@Maureen:
An important point about subbing EOCT scores-
The Math I EOCT scores for the class of 2012 were NEVER released (ie did not count). So these kids only have EOCT scores for Math 2. Not likely that those scores would help them if they struggle w/ the grad test.
What a mess this is!

EB

January 27th, 2011
5:31 pm

Why don’t we stop pretending that increasing “rigor” means we develop math programs that are paced in a way that more than half of our kids cannot understand it. This is not a presentation issue, this is a volume of information issue and it begins in elementary school. Let’s attempt to teach to mastery again.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bonnie Ferguson and Georgia News, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: School chief: Georgia grad rate will drop at least 10 points http://bit.ly/hGI4WY [...]

catlady

January 27th, 2011
5:37 pm

And how many MILLIONS have gone into certain pockets for the development, administration, grading, disseminating, reporting, revising, retesting, ad nauseum (of the CRCT)?

Perhaps the AJC ought to look into who has profited, and their relationships to the “deciders.”

RBN

January 27th, 2011
5:37 pm

Barge clearly inherited a mess with the one track approach and the math mess. The theme through both is trying to put children with very different needs and abilities into the same round hole. Not all children are the same. Yes, all children should have the same opportunities, but all do not have the same ambitions or abilities. In trying to fix one problem, the legacy of segregation and poverty, we have created another. I believe the Supt. is trying not to blame the past leadership, but the math curriculum overall has been a disaster. On the testing issue the CRCT is worthless at the 8th grade level, 95% of Georgia’s students meet expectations in Reading. Students below 4th grade level in actual performance pass the test. What does that do to our instruction? Dumb it down. If that is our goal, to pass a below grade level test, how can we raise expectations. Kids literally say, “But, I always pass the CRCT, why should I do anything else?” Parents also believe that their students are ready for high school…”Hey, they met the state expectations, didn’t they?” Perhaps if they saw an ITBS score of 4th grade level as compared to other students across the country, they would demand more of their child, us as teachers, and hopefully the people they keep electing to cut education. I wish him good luck. A lot of people are depending on his reasoned answers.

Just Wondering...

January 27th, 2011
5:40 pm

Why this information isn’t more widely known (especially by teachers): Everyone wants the ITBS, but unless we dump NCLB, a test like the CRCT is required (a criterion-based, rather than norm-referenced). The CRCT needs improvement, but the ITBS can’t just be dropped in in its place.

More info here: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/pg2.html#sec1111

I_teach!

January 27th, 2011
5:42 pm

Is anyone aware that if a student takes 5 years, instead of 4, to graduate, they fall under the ‘dropout’ rate?

Does this make any sense to anyone? They didn’t drop out-they needed an extra year-for whatever reason.

Additionally, if a student officially withdraws and moves, and they can’t be tracked, they are considered dropouts as well.

How about dropouts are those who don’t even bother to officially withdraw?

More insanity from the GA DOE!

Maureen Downey

January 27th, 2011
5:43 pm

@Just wondering, The testing requirements may be amended given the comments yesterday from the senators and Duncan.
http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2011/01/26/could-no-child-left-behind-become-every-child-counts/
Maureen

I_teach!

January 27th, 2011
5:44 pm

Wondering-
the problem with the awful CRCT is that it does NOT give GA teachers and schools information about how our students are comparing with other students nationally.

If we do move towards the national curriculum, the CRCT must be scrapped and a nationally normed test would be appropriate.

I don’t know why you think teachers aren’t aware of the reasons why the ITBS isn’t appropriate-WE already know that the test is not aligned to GA’s horrible curriculum!

Really amazed

January 27th, 2011
5:49 pm

Yes!!! ITBS instead of CRCT every year. This is the only true way to compare Georgia with the rest of the nation. Crct is just a feel good result for the parents.

Education Insider

January 27th, 2011
6:10 pm

80% graduation rate…not if we only count standard diplomas earned in 4 years…the objective, remember? More like 55%. Wait until they start factoring via the cohort rate…I believe they refer to that as “when the dookey hits the fan”.

@ I teach…according to GA, they don’t care how long it takes you to grad. they will count you as a success, even if you get a diploma that isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
Kids who withdraw are not counted as dropouts but just a withdrawn. APS misplaces 16,000 of those kids every year from freshman to sr. year.

HS Public Teacher

January 27th, 2011
6:14 pm

Pause for a moment and consider the vast amount of money GA has spent creating “our own” CRCT and GHSGT. It is outrageous. And, don’t forget about the amount of money spent every year to “maintain” it.

The republican politicans that did this to us should be shot. But, no. Georgia voters simply continue to elect republicans to office.

We get what we vote for…

Dream on

January 27th, 2011
6:22 pm

The “new” integrated math is a complete failure and seems only to be beneficial to above average students who could learn math on their own if necessary. And the class of 2012 are the guinea pigs. How are colleges going to react to Math I, II etc. You need an understanding of Algebra and Geometry to take the SAT and further math for the ACT. Not going to work. Go back to teaching one year of each math. Mixing geometry, algebra, statistics etc each year is like learning a little French, a little German and a little Chinese each year. Expecting average students to recall the prior information as you increase the difficulty is ridiculous for all but advanced students. The math has to go. It was tried and dropped in many other systems well before Georgia adopted it. I would love know how it was adopted and who got contracts to provide the materials etc…

John

January 27th, 2011
6:23 pm

John Barge is the best thing to happen to the State Department of Education since Charles McDaniel in the 1970s. He knows the realities of what goes on in the classroom. He also has brougtht in people like Mike Buck and Joel Thornton who know education and who aren’t afraid to rock the boat. Giving local systems the option of restoring math instruction to the way it is done in every quality private school and the rest of the country is the first step. Georgia’s top students can compete with the top students anywhere. He is making sure that all students will have the opportunity to learn.

GeeMac

January 27th, 2011
6:42 pm

@Atlmom- I’m not sure if you are being purposely obtuse, but parents can choose: public, private, or home school. I agreed with your basic point about limiting control at the state level.

GeeMac

January 27th, 2011
6:44 pm

@Atlmom- Just re-read your post for clarification. Parents choose curriculum for homeschool. Problem solved.

Jennifer

January 27th, 2011
6:46 pm

Interesting question about teaching math through construction. My student is at an Ivy League college and Music Theory counts as a math unit. It is food for thought, but I am not sure that I would have wanted this in high school for my student – I am really uncomfortable about tracking kids. Can you incorporate construction and music in the math class if it teaches some of the same concepts/applications ?

Go Figure

January 27th, 2011
6:48 pm

I wish they would work on fixing the problem and not just symptoms. I taught 8th grade physical science for years. I would also prepare students for 9th grade physical science and incorporate some math. Every year I was amazed that students could not do simple addition and multiplication. Many did not pass the 8th grade CRCT in math. Most of those did not pass the math class and rarely did any work or homework. They had learned that they would go to the next grade. No accountability. Those failing in hight school should have been stopped much earlier in their schooling and not just passed on to the next grade. I had students that had not passed the math CRCT for several years in a row. They were just passed on by the bean counters who did not want to deal with bad press. The ones that suffered are the ones that cannot pass high school math and thus not graduate. Good job education leaders.

Larry Major

January 27th, 2011
6:54 pm

@Just Wondering is correct. Norm-referenced tests and criterion-referenced tests measure very different things.

A norm-referenced test only compares students against each other, not against any standard. Norm-referenced tests cannot be used as high-stakes tests because you would be determining prior to test administration the bottom five (or whatever) percent of students will be retained regardless of whether they actually knew the material.

atlmom

January 27th, 2011
6:56 pm

@dream on:
Expecting average students to recall the prior information as you increase the difficulty is ridiculous for all but advanced students

That is the ONLY way to learn math. Everything draws on everything else.

Geemac: i don’t know what the solution is, actually. There aren’t many private schools where you could get the education for what a ‘voucher’ would be for. And in the end, I would really be unhappy – since I do so like to have a neighborhood school that I walk to and that I know all my neighbors at, etc…
Of course, some people have school choice (I certainly do – I could move to another district, or send kids to private school if I sold my house) – but not everyone does.

I was home for a week with the kids during the snowstorm. I’m not sure I have the stomach to homeschool. I teach a whole bunch to them when they are with me already, and it is exhausting.

ScienceTeacher671

January 27th, 2011
6:58 pm

Ditto RBN and Go Figure…

d

January 27th, 2011
6:58 pm

Why didn’t anyone ask Gwinnett why they abandoned their integrated math so soon after they adopted it about 10 years ago?

Michael in Decatur

January 27th, 2011
7:06 pm

Someone said it earlier, but let me reiterate: The class of 2012 got screwed. Thank you Kathy Cox!

GeeMac

January 27th, 2011
7:07 pm

Atlmom- I don’t know answer either. It’s seems strange, but in my small corner of southwest Georgia, the students are scattered in at least 5 directions: pay $500 and kids go to neigboring county (which is the option I have chosen for my children), pay more $ and they can go to one of the 2 private schools in contiguous counties, go to newly established regional charyer school, or come to the local county school where I teach.

GeeMac

January 27th, 2011
7:10 pm

“charter” I meant.

Evelyn

January 27th, 2011
7:11 pm

What’s the alternative? We have been failing our kids for years, and it should not take until a kids hits 12th grade to figure that out. Thank you, Mr. Barge, for bringing sanity back to the education system. Not everyone is college bound, so why would we expect them all to do calculus or pre-calc. work or just accept having to drop out of school to get the rest of their “education” at the school of hard knocks. What happened to technical degree programs? Have they kept pace with the current economy?

ScienceTeacher671

January 27th, 2011
7:33 pm

If we’re going to count Math I Support and Math II support for HS credit instead of Math III and Math IV, why don’t we just teach Remedial Math I and Remedial Math II in the first two years of high school, to see if we can’t teach them what they should have learned in elementary and middle schools before putting them into Math I and II?

Mike Honcho

January 27th, 2011
7:36 pm

What happened to technical degree programs? Answer: Kathy Cox

Pius Paul

January 27th, 2011
7:43 pm

For Pete’s sake — WHAT IS THE TRUTH??

We seem to attempt to ‘game’ the system, while our kids continue to fall behind the rest of the world. Mr. Barge is on to something that will potentially groom kids for a future; bring jobs to ATL; and potentially reduce the drop out rate of those who quit because they know they are not going to college!

Take a look at job shortages today in the trades; in the medical fields (not requiring a MD)! Some of our policies — attempting to groom all kids to go to college — and been a dismal failure.

STICK TO YOUR GUNS MR. BARGE!

No Teacher Left Behind

January 27th, 2011
7:48 pm

Georgia students no longer have to take 2 years of a foreign language in order to graduate, but colleges are requiring 2-3 years minimum nationwide. Talk about setting our high school graduates back by 50 years.

SmartDawg

January 27th, 2011
7:53 pm

Yes, the integrated math program has presented significant problems. But let’s not forget that staff development budgets were slashed just as the new curriculum was being rolled out. Teachers weren’t provided with the support and strategies they needed in order to be successful

Atlanta mom

January 27th, 2011
7:57 pm

My, my. If we can have a junior with no math credits to date, maybe we need to go to the current labeling system used in many colleges now. Instead of freshman, sophmore and junior, we have 1st year, 2nd year and 3rd year students.

rosie

January 27th, 2011
8:55 pm

Why did georgia move from two diplomas to one? Why did the state board choose to implement the integrated math? Why? Why? Why? The diploma hasn’t really changed. Kids are taking no more math than they did before since many were taking remedial math classes to get Algebra I credit.

atlmom

January 27th, 2011
9:07 pm

Definitely part of the problem is thinking that everyone should go to college. But when they get to college these days, so many of them are in remedial math – i like the idea of just doing it in high school!

@no teacher: my parents forced me to take foreign language even though it wasn’t required…I was thankful that I had taken the regents exam (NY) in 11th grade, so I didn’t have to suffer thru another year as a senior! If someone wants to go to college, they should have an idea how to get there, and hopefully (okay, maybe I’m putting too much faith in this) – a guidance counselor would be there to help a student know that they need foreign language. Of course, 1/2 of them can’t speak english, anyway.

*sigh* I think I’ll just take my kid out in 11th grade and send ‘em to comm college. it’s looking like that may be the best option…

No Teacher Left Behind

January 27th, 2011
9:17 pm

@Atl mom, in this global competitive market, a foreign language is a necessity. Georgia’s racial policies towards anything global is a huge disservice to its students. Afterall, there are no longer any jobs left for college graduates in Georgia, let alone the entire country.

Skylark

January 27th, 2011
9:30 pm

“…several ways to allow kids to pass the math portion of the Georgia High School Graduation test, including breaking the test down to its domains/components — algebra, statistics, geometry and numbers and equations — and letting students only retake the parts that they fail.”

That makes eminent good sense. Why did it take until now for someone to think of that? Kudos to you Superintendent Barge.