By Chantrise Holliman
In a recent press release from the GADOE (November 7), it was announced that they would be making changes to ensure that students taking Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses would no longer be double tested. (See Policy Change Could Eliminate 58,000 High Stakes Tests for Students) As a parent whose child took AP Courses in high school, I applaud the DOE for taking this step to eliminate additional testing for these students. As any parent of a high-achieving student can tell you, having to prepare for AP exams, IB exams, final exams, and EOC exams (End of Course) all at the same time is stressful. Add to this that most students take these exams during their Junior and Senior years when the stress of applying to college is also looming and you have a recipe for all manner of anxiety induced issues. And yet, while I am excited about this recent decision, I can’t help but wonder how it will impact the CCRPI scores for many of our high needs schools.
The College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) “is Georgia’s annual tool for measuring how well its schools, districts, and the state itself are preparing students for the next educational level.” The CCRPI includes the following components: Content Mastery (30%), Closing the Gap (15%), Readiness (20%), and Progress (35%). These components, include multiple indicators and are combined for a total CCRPI score on a scale of 0 to 100 (See GADOE “Accountability” and CCRPI Indicators). Under the “Readiness” component (20%), points are given for the percentage of 12th graders earning credit for dual enrollment, AP, and/or IB courses and scores on those exams. The area that causes some concern is “Content Mastery” (30%) which is composed entirely of students’ performance on the EOC.
As a former high school English teacher who taught a course for over a decade that required an EOC exam, I am aware how the courses and students you teach can impact a school’s CCRPI score, especially in the area of “Content Mastery.” Without getting too far into the weeds on this issue, by allowing students taking AP and IB courses to be exempt from taking EOC exams there is a very good chance that a school’s overall CCRPI school will decrease because the number of students taking the exams will decrease. However, this isn’t just about numbers. It’s also about the caliber of students talking the exam. Let me be frank, one of the reasons why it is beneficial to a school for their high-level students to take these standardized tests is because these are the students who raise the overall pass rate for these tests at each school. Students are given scores on a four-point scale from Beginning to Distinguished (See “Georgia Milestones Achievement Level Descriptors”). The more students scoring a 3 or 4 (Proficient or Distinguished) the greater the chance a school is going to earn all 30% under Content Mastery. What happens to schools that are working toward having high academic outcomes for all students but aren’t there yet? At schools where academic achievement is at a high level across the board, this change probably won’t cause a blip on the radar. However, at schools where the work is still in progress, this can have serious implications.
In an op-ed written by State Superintendent Richard Woods, “It’s Time to Lift Up Instead of Label Our Schools,” he says “… we must give equal priority to reducing the number of high-stakes tests, and the emphasis on high-stakes testing in the accountability system, or our efforts will not produce results.” I agree with this wholeheartedly, however, until the emphasis on high-stakes testing is reduced, schools that are doing the work to raise their academic achievement may find their CCRPI scores no longer reflective of their efforts.
By no means is this to say that high-achieving students should be made to take the EOC for the purpose of helping to increase their schools CCRPI. These students are already tested to the point of anxiety and exhaustion as I mentioned earlier in this piece. So, it is going to be imperative that we as community stakeholders, parents, administrators, teachers, and students work together to ensure our scores continue to be indicative of the great work being accomplished regardless of who is or who isn’t taking the tests.
Stakeholders: Find out what schools need in order to provide the best learning opportunities for all students and then fund it.
Parents: Hold schools accountable for providing quality academic experiences for all students regardless of achievement level.
Administrators: Listen to what your teachers need. For their students to perform at their highest levels they need to have what they need to perform at their highest levels.
Teachers: Commit to going above and beyond for every one of your students. If you’re already doing this, continue. If you know you’re not, start.
Students: Go to school every day with the mindset that you’re going to do your best, always, then do just that.
Dr. Chantrise Sims Holliman has been a proud resident of the South Fulton area since 2005 when she moved here to teach at Westlake High School. A vocal advocate for all things education, she believes in championing students, parents, and teachers alike. Dr. Holliman is the mother of Westlake Alum Astede Jahannes and the wife of C.J. Holliman, Pastor of New Grant Chapel AME Church in East Point.
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