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DCSS silent until official CRCT results

ALBANY, Ga. -- Officials with the Dougherty County School System decided to hold off on providing comments about preliminary results of the 2010 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests Thursday afternoon.

The test scores -- which were revealed Thursday following an Albany Herald Open Records request for them through the Governor's Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) -- indicated that DCSS elementary schools that were flagged by the state for severe and modern concern because of irregular erasure marks on the 2009 test had significantly lower scores on the 2010 exam.

"We would like to look at the official results expected Wednesday and consult with Mr. (James) Wilson (of Education Planners) about his findings," DCSS Public Information Director R.D. Harter said.

Harter and other Dougherty County school system officials were upset Wednesday when they learned that The Herald had obtained data that they said they didn't possess -- something GOSA Executive Director Kathleen Mathers questioned Thursday.

"The district has had student-level scores for about a month," Mathers wrote in an e-mail. "It's those student-level scores that they can aggregate to show results on a school level."

Wilson will be returning to Albany June 24. He plans to spend the remainder of the summer in the city to respond to the GOSA's request for more detailed information that the GOSA sought as part of Wilson's independent investigation for the Dougherty County School Board. On April 28, Wilson concluded that he found no evidence of improper testing during his CRCT audit.

"I'm very dedicated to work with Dougherty County to find all the information that is necessary to please the Office of Student Achievement," Wilson said Thursday. "I do think that the Office of Student Achievement needs to review their own website where they quote (CTB)-McGraw Hill, the testing company, stating that the testing company clarifies that one indicator, such as erasure analysis, wrong-to-right, must be used with other research to form any valid opinion.

"Since the state only chose to use erasure analysis, wrong-to-right information, Dougherty County School System chose to go much further by sending an independent team to Indianapolis to actually view all available material. Even though we've provided a very good, accurate report we'll continue to look all summer at data, interview teachers, principals and administrators, until we are more than 100 percent satisfied since we are already 100 percent satisfied."

Mathers told The Herald Wednesday that 34 school systems out of 183 in the state were flagged moderate or severe concern list. Dougherty County had eight of its elementary schools on the severe concern list and five elementary schools and one middle school identified on the moderate concern list. Mathers said about a third of those districts were requested to provide the GOSA with more information of the 30 the organization had reviewed thus far.

The state placed test monitors in Dougherty County public schools this spring during the 2010 CRCT administration to ensure the accuracy of this year's results, Mathers said.

"The monitors were placed in severe concern schools to observe the testing process to ensure that schools followed the state's requirements," she wrote. "They also used envelopes and security tape to secure the testing documents before and after testing. ... We're concerned about what happened in the 2009 test session (when we didn't have monitors in schools), not the 2010 session."

The Governor's Office of Student Achievement has requested that the more detailed information that it seeks from Dougherty County School System be returned by June 25, but Mathers said they would work the school system to establish a later time if needed. Since Wilson won't be arriving until June 24, it is unlikely Dougherty County would meet the June 25 deadline.

"I have not heard from (former Superintendent) Sally Whatley or Joshua Murfree that they need an extension," Mathers wrote Thursday.