- Associated Press - Thursday, September 3, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - When Georgia students took a new test based on Common Core standards last year, their rate of proficiency in English language arts and math was below 40 percent in each grade level, according to results released Thursday.

The results, representing the entire state, are a significant departure from passage rates in the 80 or 90 percent range on Georgia’s old statewide exam.

Education officials cautioned for months that the old test, called the CRCT, set lower expectations than any other state, meaning some students deemed proficient in previous years would not score as well on the next test.

“These results show a lower level of student proficiency than Georgians are used to seeing, but that does not mean Georgia students know less or that teachers are not doing a great job - it means they’ve been asked to clear a higher bar,” state Superintendent Richard Woods said in a statement.

Scores for individual districts and schools are expected in October.

Education officials said the old and new tests can’t be compared, and said the Common Core-aligned test will better prepare students for college or careers.

In 2010 Georgia adopted the standards developed by the National Governors Association to improve student preparation and better compare performance across states.

The previous “CRCT” exam had three result categories. Students were classified as meeting, exceeding or not meeting standards. The new test has four categories for students: “beginning” who are not proficient, “developing” who are partially proficient, “proficient” who meet necessary standards and “distinguished” who exceed them.

The statewide results were broken down by grade level into four subjects: math, English language arts, social studies and science. No grade level reported more than 39 percent of students were proficient or better in any subject.

Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza said students who fell into the lowest category called “beginning learners” won’t be affected this year during a “hold harmless” period for the new test. In the future, students could be held back or re-tested under Georgia’s education accountability law, which requires grade-level reading ability in third, fifth and eighth grade and grade-level math ability in fifth and eighth grade.

Georgia decided to design its own exam, dropping out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers group of states developing a group exam.

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