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Student scores at top again
Forsyth schools rank first in several areas of benchmark test
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Forsyth County News
The state released school-level test scores earlier this week and Forsyth County school officials are celebrating.
"In every content area, in every grade level, we are tops in the metro area," said Superintendent Buster Evans.
Local students ranked first in several areas, including fourth-grade math and sixth-grade English, math and science.
The annual Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, or CRCT, measures student progress. The test is a cornerstone of No Child Left Behind.
Historically, local schools have outranked the state on the tests.
The 2007-08 school year brought unique challenges, though.
There was new leadership and a pilot, standards-based grading system for some fourth-graders.
Additionally, social studies CRCT scores for sixth- and seventh- grade students across the state were thrown out this year, after more than 70 percent of Georgia students did not meet standards.
State officials said the redesigned, more specific version of the test confused students.
This is Evans' first go-round with the CRCTs in Forsyth County, a system 12 times the size of his former district, Bleckley County Schools, where he was the superintendent for several years.
In January, Evans replaced retiring superintendent Paula Gault.
"In reality, I think it reflects the great student population we have," Evans said. "I think it's evidence there's a lot of good things continuing to be done."
Board of Education Chairwoman Nancy Roche was pleased with both the test scores and Evans' work.
"I think he realized when he came to Forsyth County that it is an area of very high expectations and he's stepped up to that," she said. "I think he's doing a really good job."
Roche also explained the relationship between standards-based grading, or "1-2-3 grading" and CRCT scores.
"Getting a head start on using standards so many years ago was a big influence," she said.
As the format of the CRCT changes each year to become more difficult in some subjects, it will essentially be a standards-based test, she said.
Standards-based grading has been a sore point for some parents and administrators, since it was piloted at seven elementary schools last year. Some say the scale leaves no room to award or acknowledge excellence.
The grading systems gives students a 1, 2, or 3 that gauges how well they know the material. The system has been used for years in kindergarten through third grade.
"I think the standards are the key thing," said Roche. "We went to a standards-based system 10 years ago. The grading isn't the important part, the standards are the important part."
"They're scoring according to what they're teaching the kids. If their kids are proficient, they get a 3," Roche added.
With the scale, she said, teachers know if students need remediation or acceleration.  
"It's really good because they know exactly where the kids stand," said Roche.
Lissa Pijanowski, director of school improvement, assessment and accountability agreed.
"Being number one school system in the metro area in all 34 areas of the CRCT only affirms that the standards-based teaching and learning we promote in Forsyth County works and works well," she said.
While students outpaced the state in all areas, Evans was particularly pleased with the math scores.
"We've just gone through a new math textbook adoption for (kindergarten) through eight and this reflects the new Georgia Performance Standards," he said.
In addition, a new math section was introduced on the CRCT this year and eighth-grade scores across the state took a nosedive, with 62 percent passing.
Locally, 88 percent of eighth-grade students passed, making Forsyth County the third in the state for eight-grade math.