VALDOSTA -- Valdosta City School System officials are hoping to find out what social studies and science knowledge some Wildcats are lacking.

Approximately 450 Valdosta High School juniors were administered Georgia High School Predictor Tests in these two subject areas Tuesday and Wednesday. This was in direct response to the high number of students failing the Georgia High School Graduation Tests in social studies and science each year.

Aretha Benson, instructional supervisor and testing coordinator for the system, said, "These tests are designed to parallel Georgia's High School Graduation Tests and can serve to identify students who may be at risk of failing the science and/or social studies portions in March 2005."

Results from the Georgia High School Predictor tests in science and social studies, which are expected in two weeks, will be used to design remedial instruction activities. Superintendent Sam Allen said this will hopefully prevent students from failing the tests during the spring.

"The results will also allow us to look at our curriculum and see where the weaknesses are in our instruction," he added. "My thinking is that there are gaps between the state's Quality Core Curriculum and the information on those tests. We just need to figure out where those are and plug them in an effort to make sure our students get what they need to be successful."

Allen said he would much rather have students pass all of the Georgia High School Graduation Tests the first time. He said they should not have to worry about taking it several times.

Allen said individual students will receive a report detailing their specific areas of weakness. He said teachers will receive a summary report containing more general information.

"We are excited about that," he said.

During the 2004 administration, 78 percent of Valdosta High School juniors passed the social studies test on the first try. That figure dropped to 61 percent on the science test.

Lowndes High School Principal Wes Taylor said his juniors will not be taking the Georgia High School Predictor Tests at this time. He said his focus is on gauging student performance all year long and intervening as necessary.

"We have remediation after school, which we provide transportation for," he said. "We also provide some study skills classes for students who are considered at-risk for failing the Georgia High School Graduation Tests based on previous academic performance, current academic status, and teacher recommendations."

During the past spring administration, 87 percent of Lowndes High School juniors passed the social studies test on the first time. Seventy-six percent passed the science test.

In 1991, Georgia legislators passed a law requiring that curriculum-based assessments be administered in grade 11 for graduation purposes. As a result, all students who entered the ninth grade after July 1, 1994, must pass tests in English/language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and writing in order to graduate from high school.

According to the Georgia Department of Education, these requirements apply to all students, regardless of the type of diploma or diploma seal they are seeking. Students have five opportunities to take each of the tests before the end of the 12th grade.

The Georgia High School Graduation Tests cover only a sample of the knowledge and skills that constitute a complete high school education. The content of each test is based on standards specified in the Quality Core Curriculum as established by the Georgia Department of Education.

During the 2004 administration, 85 percent of first-time test takers statewide passed the social studies graduation test. On the science test, only 71 percent of them achieved passing scores. These figures are in stark contrast to scores on the English/language arts and mathematics tests where 96 percent and 95 percent, respectively, of juniors passed.



To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call (229) 244-3400, ext. 255.

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