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State CRCT probe continues

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Governor's Office of Student Achievement has asked for a more detailed report by the Dougherty County School System regarding its independent investigation into irregularities on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

During its first erasure analysis of the state's CRCT for grades first through eighth, the GOSA conducted a five-month analysis investigating the number of wrong answers that were changed to correct answers on individual student answer sheets in reading, English/language arts and math.

Dougherty County had eight elementary schools -- West Town (77.2 percent), Jackson Heights (57.9 percent), Northside (52.2 percent), Martin Luther King Jr. (45.6 percent), Turner (39.4 percent), Alice Coachman (31.7 percent), Morningside (31.6 percent) and Sherwood Acres (25 percent) -- on the state's 4 percent of schools on the "Severe Concern" list. The list featured schools with 25 percent or more of its classes flagged for wrong-to-right answers.

Lamar Reese (22.7 percent), Sylvester Road (22.2 percent), Radium Springs (21.4 percent), Magnolia (18.2 percent) and Lincoln (14.3 percent) elementary schools, along with Albany Middle (13.1 percent) fell into the "Moderate Concern" level, which was the second worst level with 6 percent of the state designated with this status with 11 percent to 24 percent of classes flagged.

West Town's 77.2 percent was ranked sixth worst on the CRCT erasure analysis in the state. Eighty percent of Georgia's elementary and middle schools were placed into the "Clear of Concern" category, which was less than 6 percent of the classes within a given school were flagged.

"(Superintendent) Dr. (Joshua) Murfree received a letter from the Georgia Office of Student Achievement Monday from (Executive Director) Kathleen Mathers," DCSS Public Information R.D. Harter said Wednesday. "There was a list attached of about six or eight areas that they wanted further investigation on. Some of the things they asked (independent consultant) Education Planners may have already collected.

"Dr. Murfree plans to meet with the consultant that led our investigation (James Wilson) and they're meeting next Friday as to what is needed and what needs to be done."

Mathers said Wilson's nine-page report that he provided to the Dougherty County Board of Education April 28 was too general. Wilson concluded that he found no evidence of improper testing during his CRCT audit, which included taking a three-member team to Indianapolis to review test documents.

"We had reviewed their report and are asking for more investigation," Mathers told The Albany Herald Wednesday afternoon. "It wasn't specific enough. It's not spelled out school-by-school and we asked for that information. Some of those flags in those classrooms are really big, and statistically improbable is what I'm saying. (Dougherty County officials) said that (students) go back and check their work and a number of classrooms had substantial changes.

"We can't classify their investigation as complete until we have more substantial information."

GOSA is seeking the more detailed report by June 25, but Mathers said the office would be "happy" to work with the school system in "establishing" a later time.

The Herald filed an Open Records request with the GOSA for the preliminary 2010 CRCT data for Dougherty Schools. The results won't become official until Wednesday when they become validated by the state. Most of the scores for the schools that were flagged either on the severe or moderate concern list dropped significantly, according to the preliminary data.

Jackson Heights students had some of the biggest decreased pass rates, particularly in math. The pass rate for fourth-grade students at the school dropped 48 points, from 92 in 2009 to 44 in 2010. Third-graders' scores dropped 33 points, from 92 to 59; second-graders went down 29 points, from 96 to 67, and fifth-graders dropped 24 points, from 72 to 48.

The school's English/language arts scores dropped 29 points in first grade, from 85 to 56; second grade dipped 27 points, from 93 to 66; third grade decreased 24 points, from 95 to 71. Jackson Height's second-grade reading pass-rate dropped 24 points, from 99 to 75. In fact, all of the school's preliminary pass-rate decreased from 2009 to 2010 by an average of 22.9.

-- West Town students pass-rate decreased by an average of 16.5, including 31 points in third-grade math and 30 points in fifth-grade math.

-- Northside students pass-rate decreased by an average of 13.2.

-- Martin Luther students pass-rate dropped by an average of 15 points, including its fifth-grade reading pass rate dropping 45 points, from 95 to 45.

-- Alice Coachman students pass-rate dropped an average of 10.2 points, including its second-grade English/LA decreasing 20 points, from 94 to 74.

-- Morningside students pass-rate dipped an average of 9.9.

-- Turner students pass-rate dropped an average of 9.5.

-- Sherwood Acres students pass-rate dipped an average of 5.7.

-- Radium Springs students pass-rate dropped an average of 3.4.

-- Lamar Reese students pass-rate declined an average of 3.1.

-- Lincoln Elementary students pass-rate decreased an average of 1.3.

-- Sylvester Road students pass-rate dropped 1.1. The school's fifth-grade math students had one of the biggest improvements with a 30-point increase in math, rising from 41 to 71.

-- Magnolia students pass-rate improved by an average of 0.5.

-- Albany Middle students improved its pass-rate an average of 3 points.

Dougherty County first-grade pass-rate went down six points, from 95 to 89 in reading; 8 points in English/language arts, from 89 to 81 and 13 points from 93 to 80. Its second-grade pass-rate in reading dropped 8 points, from 92 to 84, English/language arts dropped 10 points, from 89 to 79, and math dropped 11 points, from 89 to 78.

Third graders pass-rate improved by 1 point in reading, going from 81 to 82; dropped 6 points, from 86 to 80, in English/language, and 8 points in math, from 76 to 68. Fourth-graders' pass-rate in reading dropped 1 point, from 80 to 79; English/language, 2 points from 84 to 82, and math dropped 9 points, from 73 to 64. Fifth-graders' reading pass-rate decreased 5 points, from 83 to 78; English/language dropped 3 points, from 92 to 89, and the decline was 6 points in math, from 77 to 71.

Sixth was the only grade that didn't have its pass rates drop. Reading pass rates improved 4 points, from 82 to 86; English/language improved 5 points, from 84 to 89, and math went up 7 points, from 60 to 67. Seventh-grade pass rates dropped 1 point, from 84 to 83; stayed even in English/language at 87, and improved 3 points in math, from 74 to 77. Eighth-graders' math pass-rate improved 4 points, from 86 to 90; English/language dropped 2 points, from 90 to 88, and math improved 5 points, from 51 to 56.

"I've seen the priminary data and many scores have dropped on the schools on the moderate and severe concern list," Mathers said. "I would say in a lot of cases those scores speak for themselves. ... Some of these flags are so big they'd look like a blizzard happening in Fort Lauderdale in July and Dougherty has some of those."

Mathers said Dougherty County School System officials have had the same figures that were provided to The Herald in the Open Records request by GOSA. Harter, however, said the system didn't have the numbers.

All the system has are "student level results to determine if a child is promoted or not or if they need summer remediation or summer school," Harter said Wednesday night. "We don't have the information that the Governor's Office of Student Achievement has supplied you. It's certainly not an acceptable or efficient way to isolate unethical behavior and take corrective action. In other words, the way she's dealing with this through the media is not helping us isolate a problem, should we have one."

Former Superintendent Sally Whatley, who is mentoring new Superintendent Joshua Murfree through the end of the month, said the community needs to keep in mind that this year's tests were taken by different students and administered by different teachers. They also had state officials monitoring the test administration, as a result of the erasure analysis results released by the GOSA in February.

"The system will evaluate the data and give it thorough consideration when we receive it, but as of now we haven't received it from the state," Board Chairman David Maschke said.

Mathers said Dougherty County consultant Wilson's announcement to the board that he found no evidence of improper testing was premature.

"They made an announcement that they were complete, but we never said they were complete," she said. "They announced it at their board meeting before we even saw their report.

"The state had one purpose was that we didn't have any inflated test scores because that would've hurt the children," she added. "What we focused on was wrong-to-right answers. We looked at every test-taker in the state the same way, so we need to understand why Dougherty looked so different than the rest of the state because most of the schools in the state looked very good in this analysis (80 percent)."

Mathers said only 34 school systems out of 183 in the state were flagged moderate or severe concern list.

"About a third of the districts have been asked to give us more information of the 30 we've reviewed so far, we're trying to wrap this up this week," she said. "This is a very back-and-forth process. It's not that Dougherty did a bad job with this report, but it affects children. We just want the assurance that it's been done well and I think the people of Dougherty want the assurance that it's been done well."

Education Planners' Wilson said he would provided the GOSA the information they're seeking.

"I've already talked to the school system and will be down (next) Thursday and Friday," he said. "But it's not just one day. I'll go to each and every school and we'll go and do everything we need to do. I'll do whatever I have to do.

"The report could be a 20-page report or a 200-page report, but it'd say the same thing," he added. "What I reported on the last time is 100 percent the truth and we'll give more detailed information. I would've thought they would've wanted more an executive summary more than a 200-page report, but we will comply with them. There's no problem whatsoever."