Newton County School System high school students outperformed the state average in three areas on End of Course Tests during the 2012-13 school year, but EOCT results show that math is still a difficult subject for NCSS students, and students throughout the state.

During the 2012-2013 school year, Newton County’s high school students participated in nine End-of-Course Tests. The EOCTs are one measure of high school success for accountability purposes on the new College and Career Ready Performance Index and also account for a percentage of a student’s course grade, according to NCSS officials.

The Georgia Department of Education released EOCT results on Wednesday, and preliminary test data provided by the state show that NCSS high school students surpassed state averages in three areas of 2012-13 school year EOCTs, matched state scores in two areas, and posted a two-point decline in one area.

According to a news release from the NCSS, students outpaced the state in physical science, economics, and U.S. history; and matched the state in 9th Grade Literature and Math II. NCSS students also increased pass rates on five of the seven tests in 2013, including: 9th Grade Literature; physical science; U.S. History; Economics; and Math II.

However, in both the state and Newton County, students did not perform well on the new Coordinate Algebra exam.

According to NCSS officials, 2013 marked the first year for the Coordinate Algebra test, replacing the Math I portion of the tests. As expected, scores across the state were low. All three Newton high schools scored below the state average on the test.

In Coordinate Algebra, Alcovy High School students had 19 percent of students who passed (with 496 students tested); Eastside had 29 percent of students who passed (with 314 students tested); and Newton had 14 percent of students who passed (with 527 students tested) compared with the state average of 37.

About 63 percent of students who took the algebra test this spring failed to meet state standards, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which reported that some metro Atlanta districts saw failure rates of nearly 78 percent.

Students’ Coordinate Algebra scores have even drawn criticism from Gov. Nathan Deal, who told the AJC that scores were “unacceptable” and proved that there was much work that needed to be done.

In Math I, Alcovy had 13 percent of students who passed (with 71 students tested); Eastside had 29 percent of students who passed (with 42 students tested); and Newton had 14 percent of students who passed (with 63 students tested) compared with the state at 29 percent. According to the release, a small number of students participated in Math I because the test was offered only to satisfy graduation requirements for those students.

In Math II, Alcovy had 55 percent of students who passed (with 469 students tested); Eastside had 76 percent of students who passed (with 302 students tested); and Newton had 53 percent of students who passed (with 479 students tested) compared with the state Math II at 59 percent.

NCSS superintendent Samantha Fuhrey said mathematics continues to be an area in need of more focused attention. She said since 2013 was the first year for the Coordinate Algebra EOCT, the new curriculum required teachers to adjust their teaching techniques to reflect the increased rigor.

“The curriculum and exam required students to move from recalling facts and plugging numbers into formulas to understanding and identifying mathematical concepts,” Fuhrey said, “The Coordinated Algebra test is not the typical multiple choice exam experienced in the past.”

Fuhrey added that the 2014 school year will see the addition of Analytic Geometry, and she said that school leaders are working to ensure students experience greater success. She also said Math II will be phased out in 2014.

Fuhrey said while the NCSS is pleased with the continued improvement of its students’ EOCT results, the school system is not where it wants to be.

“Our teachers and school and central office leaders are committed to this upward trend. Math continues to be a challenge, and we intend to face the challenge with continued dedication and commitment to our students and school system,” she said.

Fuhrey said once retest data is finalized, scores are expected to reflect more improvement. For a list of all EOCT results, visit covnews.com.

School system officials said EOCT scores for Challenge Charter School, which has since closed, and Ombudsman, the district’s Alternative Education Program, are available for review upon request.

*The Associated Press contributed to this report.*