The improvement raised the system’s passing percentage up to 94.7 percent, up from 91.5 percent in 2011, with 867 county students being tested.
The test results divided students into three categories based on the test’s standard — did not meet, met and exceeded.
Three of the five high schools in the system increased the percentage of students in the “exceeded” category, with Bowdon High increasing the most and 11.8 percent of students exceeding the exam’s standard.
Four of the five high schools in the system increased their pass percentage, with Temple High making the biggest improvement, increasing by almost 12 percentage points.
Villa Rica High was the only school that did not show increased scores, with a 0.5 percentage point decrease in the percentage of students passing the exam.
“We are very pleased that we have showed a big improvement as a system and on an individual school level,” Superintendent Scott Cowart said. “If you look at the numbers by school, some had some really good jumps. Students made some significant gains in those schools. When even a percentage point is a big improvement, Temple High jumped more than 11 points.”
Statewide numbers improved as well, with 93 percent of students passing, up two points from last year. The state has improved five points since 2007, when the current, more rigorous assessment was first introduced.
Students must pass the test to receive a high school diploma, and can take it multiple times in their junior and senior years. Students can score up to 350 points, with 200 points required to pass the test.
The writing assessment is a persuasive essay that all 11th-grade students must pass to receive a diploma. The students take the test for the first time in the fall and have a second chance to take the test in the spring if they don’t pass the first time. The students are given a topic to write about and have about 100 minutes to complete the essay. The essays are graded on the ideas the students use, the organization, the style and then grammar and usage.
The skill is one the state emphasizes in its curriculum. Students also have writing assessments in the third, fifth and eighth grades. Writing has been integrated into each unit of the schools’ curriculum, with writing assignments ever-present in all classes, not just language arts and social studies.
“We provide a variety of writing opportunities in each class,” Cowart said. “With the new Common Core standards that have gone into effect all through Georgia, writing has been woven into each subject. And a new point of emphasis has moved toward more technical writing, which is even more specific.”
Cowart said the more specialized, technical writing is a “good thing” that means students will be “even better prepared for the real world. “It’s a skill necessary in our global economy today. Teachers and students have emphasized writing and the importance of communicating your thoughts effectively, and this writing test is a powerful indicator of the gains we’ve made.”
The following are the pass percentages of county schools, followed by the percentage point difference from last year:
• Bowdon High: 94.5 percent; increased by 0.7 percentage points.
• Central High: 96.4 percent; increased by 0.7 percentage points.
• Mt. Zion High: 89 percent; increased by 8.5 percentage points.
• Temple High: 95.1 percent; increased by 11.8 percentage points.
• Villa Rica High: 95 percent; decreased by 0.5 percentage points.