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Summit focuses on positives in schools

Georgia School Superintendent John Barge speaks about the strides that have been made in Georgia public education Nov. 1, 2012, at a summit at Albany Technical College.

Georgia School Superintendent John Barge speaks about the strides that have been made in Georgia public education Nov. 1, 2012, at a summit at Albany Technical College.

ALBANY -- As part of a statewide campaign focusing on positives in public education, Georgia School Superintendent John Barge attended an education summit at Albany Technical College on Thursday to discuss the strides Georgia's students have made in public education in comparison to the nation overall.

Among the things he shared included information from the most recent "Education Week" Quality Counts Report, for which Georgia ranked 13th in the nation in terms of Advanced Placement (AP) results -- and second in AP results for African-American students, Barge said.

It was also noted by Barge that, while Georgia ranks near the bottom nationally in terms of SAT scores, the state's participation rate is 80 percent. As few as 5 percent of students were tested in some states where the focus is on the "best and brightest" students, he said.

Additionally, information from the Georgia Department of Education shows that the state leads the country when looking at year-to-year growth on all the most recent national test scores. One-year growth data for the SAT, ACT, AP and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in mathematics, reading and science shows that Georgia is the only state in the country to make gains on the most recent administration of each of those tests, officials say.

"This is not to say we have reached the pinnacle," he said at the summit. "We've still got room for improvement.

"We still have room to grow even though we have a lot of bright spots."

In a breakdown by each test, Georgia DOE shows a listing of states that made growth on the SAT from 2011 to 2012 which had Georgia ranked fourth -- and second on those that showed improvement on both the SAT and ACT during the same timeframe. When the AP tests for 2010-11 were added in, Georgia is ranked second out of nine states.

Georgia was ranked first when NAEP fourth- and eighth-grade math scores for the 2009-2011 tests were included. Once NAEP fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores for the same years were also added in, Georgia and New Jersey were the only states reported to show gains.

When the science component for NAEP was added, New Jersey fell off the list.

At the summit, Barge also made note of the graduation rates and how they are calculated. Until recently, individual states used their own formulas -- but now officials on the federal level are requiring all states to use the same formula for the purpose of uniformity.

With the formula Georgia was using, Barge said, the state was able to include "fifth-year seniors." Now, it is strictly calculated under a four-year timeframe and special education students still count as drop outs.

"We are not graduating fewer students, even though that's how it looks," the state superintendent said. "It's the way it's calculated.

"Regardless of the way it is calculated, Georgia is graduating more students than we ever have."

The Georgia graduation rate released in April, the first since switching to the current formula, was 67.4 percent. The previous year, under the old formula, it was 80.9 percent.

Among those present at the summit included various state representatives and senators, local government and school board officials, Dougherty County School Superintendent Joshua Murfree and Georgia Board of Education District 2 Representative Elizabeth Ragsdale.