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Effingham high school students surpass state marks

POSTED: June 5, 2014 10:35 p.m.

Boosted by a substantial increase in economics scores, Effingham County’s high school students fared better than the state averages in every subject of Georgia’s end of course test this spring.

Effingham’s percentage of students passing surpassed the state by at least six percent in seven subjects — ninth-grade English, 11th-grade English, U.S. history, economics, biology, physical science and coordinate algebra.

Statewide data for the analytic geometry portion is not yet available for comparison. The state-mandated end of course test counts for 20 percent of a student’s final grade in each subject.

“Because of the schools’ hard work, we saw increases in pass rates in every content area administered,” Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff said Wednesday as he presented the data to the Effingham County Board of Education.

Most significantly, Effingham County’s percentage of students passing the economics portion jumped from 71 last year to 84 this year. That is largely attributed to Effingham County High’s one-year rise from 59 percent of students passing the economics test to 80 percent passing.

School officials took steps to improve the county’s economics scores, such as maintaining continuity at ECHS by having the same economics teachers rather than assigning the courses to different teachers each year. The district also provided staff development, led by South Effingham’s John Cook, who was honored as the state’s economics teacher of the year by the Georgia Council on Economic Education.

“You see the payoff there from the work done,” Arnsdorff said to the school board. “I don’t think I have to tell you how excited we are with the increase in economics from a 59 percent pass rate last year to an 80 percent pass rate this year.”

The percentage of students passing the spring end of course test at Effingham County High and South Effingham High were:
Ninth-grade English: ECHS 94, SEHS 97
Eleventh-grade English: ECHS 95, SEHS 97
U.S. history: ECHS 83, SEHS 94
Economics: ECHS 80, SEHS 89
Biology: ECHS 93, SEHS 96
Physical science: ECHS 92, SEHS 96
Coordinate algebra: ECHS 55, SEHS 49
Analytic geometry: ECHS 46, SEHS 45

All of those were improvements over last year except South Effingham’s physical science percentage, which remained constant at 96, and the data for analytic geometry, which was part of the test for the first time. Along with its 21-percent increase in economics, ECHS also had double-digit improvements of 14 percent in biology, 11 percent in coordinate algebra and 10 percent in U.S. history.

School board member Troy Alford called the results “really impressive.” He recounted seeing Principal Yancy Ford at the ECHS graduation ceremony, the same day the school district received its end of course test results.

“I’ve never seen so much excitement with Mr. Ford during graduation,” Alford said. “If you could see the enthusiasm in his eyes and hear it in his voice, it was pretty awesome.”

Meanwhile, the county’s math scores are a concern. Effingham’s low scores reflect the statewide data, according to Superintendent Randy Shearouse.

“I can tell you from talking to other superintendents across the state, those scores are not good pretty much everywhere — some very, very low,” Shearouse said.

The analytic geometry end of course test was given for the first time this year, replacing the mathematics II portion. The coordinate algebra test was in just its second year after replacing math I.

Shearouse described the new math tests as “rigorous” and “very difficult.” As students become more familiar with the content of the test and how it is presented, school officials expect math scores to improve steadily.

“I know it’s frustrating for our math teachers to see the scores when they’re working so hard,” Shearouse said. “It’s not because of their teaching ability.”

Arnsdorff added: “It’s certainly not for a lack of trying that our math folks are not getting the results they would expect to receive based on their work. (The math scores) are moving in a positive direction now, but we’ll get them where they need to be.”

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