Monroe County students not only scored substantially above the state average in almost every area in test results released by the state last week, they also tested above the scores of Monroe County students last year.

Assistant Superintendent Alicia Elder presented the testing results to the Board of Education at its July 9 meeting. Results for individual school systems have not been released publicly, yet; so Monroe County scores can’t be compared specifically with other school districts, but the state did compare Monroe County with Middle Georgia RESA, which includes eight school districts: Monroe, Jasper, Jones, Bibb, Crawford, Peach, Houston and Twiggs.

In the Milestones tests for 3rd-5th grades Monroe County students exceeded both the state and RESA scores by more than 10 percent in every content area, English language arts and math for 3rd and 4th grade and English language arts, math, science and social studies for 5th grade. For example, in 3rd grade English language arts, 81 percent of Monroe County test takers had passing scores compared to 71 percent in the state and 68 percent in the RESA. In 5th grade science, 86 percent of Monroe County test takers passed compared to 70 percent in the state and 66 percent in the RESA.

Elder said Monroe County Schools focus on the weighted scores. The weighted scores take into account how many students score in the upper levels of the three levels of scores that are considered passing. The weighted scores are the basis for the school system’s report card from the state. Monroe County also exceeded the state and RESA weighted scores by 10 percent or more in all areas at the elementary level. 

In Monroe County 83 percent of 3rd graders tested as reading at or above grade level compared to 73 percent of 3rd graders in the state and 70 percent of 3rd graders in RESA. 81 percent of Monroe County 4th graders tested as reading at or above grade level compared to 64 percent of 4th graders in the state and 62 percent in RESA. For Monroe County 5th graders, 86 percent were reading at or above grade level compared to 73 percent in both the state and RESA. 

At Monroe County Middle School, 73 percent of 6th graders are reading at or above grade level; 84 percent of 7th graders and 82 percent of 8th graders are reading at or above grade level. All percentages are more than 10 percent above the state and RESA averages.

The high school measure of reading level is taken from the 9th grade literature/composition and American literature/composition classes. 83 percent of Monroe County students passed the 9th grade test, compared to 78 percent in the state and 68 percent in RESA. For American Literature, the Monroe County percentage was 76  compared to 71 percent in the state and 60 percent in RESA.

In a comparison of reading scores in Monroe County from 2015 to 2019, 3rd grade percentages were 81, 83, 85, 82 and 83. For 4th grade reading on or above grade level, the percentages were 69, 70, 72, 71 and 81 this year. For 5th grade, the percentages were 71, 77, 80, 75 and 86. For 6th grade, percentages over the last five years were 72, 67, 68, 72 and 73. The progression in 7th grade was from 65 to 76, 76, 73 and 84. The 8th grade percentages over the last five years have been 70, 75, 80, 79 and 82.

For 9th grade literature/composition, the reading on or above grade level percentages are 64, 75, 85, 87 and 83, and for American Literature, which is usually an 11th grade course, the percentages have been 61, 71, 73, 76 and 76.

Finally the report from the state showed the number of high school students who took Advanced Placement exams and the number who scored 3, 4, or 5 on them, which meant the students could receive college credit for them at colleges and universities. (Each college/university sets its own standard for giving credit for AP exams.) In 2019 Mary Persons students took 245 AP exams and received scores of 3 or above on 176 of them. Comparatively, Mary Persons students took 211 AP exams in 2018 and scored 3 or above on 136 of them, took 210 AP exams in 2017 and received a 3 or better on 107 of them, and took 205 AP exams in 2016 and scored 3 or higher on 100 of them.

Board member Greg Head asked if school administrators felt block scheduling was causing any problem with math scores at the high school. Superintendent Dr. Mike Hickman said that had been one of the concerns in deciding whether to go to block scheduling, but there has not seemed to be any negative impact on scores since going to block scheduling in August 2018. He said that having only four classes at a time has seemed to have a positive impact on math scores. He said the schools saw improvement from the first to second semester. 

Both Mary Persons and Monroe County Middle School outperformed the state and RESA in 29 out of 32 areas. 

“We connect them if they struggle in math, but we will have to see over time,” said Hickman. “We offer remediation in summer school if they don’t pass, then we re-test.”

This year Summer Surge Camp was offered to 90 students in grades K to 2nd grade, and it seemed successful.

“We want to do remediation as early as possible,” said Hickman. “We do a lot of work with teachers.”

He said the school system is pleased that 72 percent of Mary Persons students who took AP exams this year earned college credit. For those who took dual enrollment classes, 93 percent earned college credit. AP courses are rigorous and provide good preparation for those who plan to attend college. He noted that the Class of 2019 was strong academically.