- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2006

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia schools will not have to count test scores from thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees in their progress reports this year, the state’s top education official said.

Instead, federal officials have granted the state’s request to list the evacuees’ results in a separate category, state schools Superintendent Kathy Cox said.

“They’re not going to hold Georgia schools responsible for the product of Louisiana,” Miss Cox said Thursday at a state Board of Education meeting.

Georgia saw its overall test scores drop this year, but it does not yet have a breakdown for Katrina and non-Katrina students. State education officials attributed the overall decline to a new curriculum and more challenging tests, but they also worry that the evacuees’ performance will not match up to other Georgia students, as has happened elsewhere.

Besides having their lives uprooted, the evacuees may be following a different curriculum in their new schools, said state Education Department spokesman Dana Tofig.

The standardized tests are part of the federal No Child Left Behind Law, which mandates reading and math proficiency for all public school students by 2014. Schools receiving federal poverty aid must demonstrate annually that students in all racial categories are progressing or risk penalties that include extending the school year, changing curriculum or firing administrators and teachers.

Texas and Tennessee are also counting evacuee test scores in a separate category this year.

Louisiana education officials expect that many student displaced by last August’s hurricane and flooding will not perform well on standardized tests in other states, said Meg Casper, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Education.

Many evacuees were from New Orleans, which had Louisiana’s lowest-performing schools before Katrina.

“We’re not surprised that they’re struggling in the states where they’ve been displaced to because they were struggling in Louisiana,” Miss Casper said yesterday.

But she said other states must now take responsibility for the students who have moved to their school districts.

Georgia will count the evacuees’ scores next year, when they will have been in Georgia schools for almost two years, Miss Cox said.

Katrina evacuees in Georgia schools numbered more than 7,000 on April 1.

The roughly 35,000 Katrina students living in Texas scored considerably lower on a statewide standardized exam than Texas children this year, and thousands risk being held back.

Texas teachers and state officials blame the low scores on New Orleans’ poor school system, the trauma of being forced from their homes, and the possibility that some students were put in the wrong grade after arriving in Texas with no records.

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