The Times Free Press examined third- and eighth-grade scores on reading and math in six North Georgia school districts, including Dade County, Catoosa County, Chickamauga City, Walker County, Whitfield County and Dalton City. For a complete list of systems, grade levels and other subject scores, visit www.doe.k12.ga.us
Northwest Georgia students improved on their ABCs, though they've still got some work to do on their 1-2-3s.
The Georgia Department of Education released 2012 school system results of the Criterion Reference Competency Tests for third- through eighth-graders Thursday. Results show that most North Georgia districts improved scores in reading, though several systems fell on math scores.
Of six North Georgia school systems, all finished behind the state average for third-grade math scores. Only Walker County and Chickamauga exceeded state average for eighth-grade math.
One official attributes the drop in math scores to tougher statewide math standards, such as moving algebra concepts to lower grades.
"Math is more challenging in Georgia. It's increasing rigor in state standards," said Whitfield County Schools spokesman Eric Beavers. "What used to be taught at a higher grade is taught at a much lower grade now."
Whitfield schools saw drops in third- through sixth-grade math scores, while only one grade -- fifth -- showed decreased scores in reading.
Catoosa County saw the biggest gains, improving reading and math scores in all tested grades. Eighth-grade math scores improved by about 9 points, a 1.07 percent improvement over 2011.
Officials in Catoosa cite increased professional development opportunities for teachers and regular local tests that continually evaluate how students are performing.
"Our teachers are using a variety of tools to improve student achievement," Catoosa Superintendent Denia Reese said in a statement.
The test scores trended mostly up in social studies and science, though some districts lost ground in those subjects, according to a review of the six North Georgia systems -- Dade County, Catoosa County, Chickamauga City, Walker County, Whitfield County and Dalton City.
The results include subject-area averages for each elementary grade tested, though they do not yet include school-by-school data.
Chickamauga City Schools' third-grade math scores saw the biggest dip of all subjects and grades in North Georgia. The system's average third-grade score dropped more than 10 points, finishing 1.25 percent lower than in 2011. Yet the district also saw the biggest gain, with social studies scores improving by 28 points in seventh grade, a 2.89 percent increase.
Dalton schools saw drops in math scores in four of the six grades tested, the lowest a nearly eight-point drop in eighth grade.
Dalton Public Schools spokeswoman Pat Holloway said officials haven't had time to closely examine the data, but they will aggregate it and draw comparisons over the coming weeks.
"However, it is our belief that CRCT results are only one of the assessment indicators that we use in determining strengths, setting goals, determining priorities and initiating any changes in relation to curriculum and instruction," she said in an email.