11/10/06 — State says ABC scores will stand

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State says ABC scores will stand

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 10, 2006 1:45 PM

End-of-grade math scores released last week will stand as official results, state and local officials announced this week.

On Nov. 1, the State Board of Education announced results of the grades 3-8 math tests would be delayed pending further review. Board chairman Howard Lee set the release date for Nov. 9.

Pressure from media outlets and criticism from a government watchdog group prompted the state to release the results online and label them preliminary and unofficial.

On Thursday, the state board issued a statement saying the ABC test results were approved as they currently exist on the ABC Web site. The associate superintendent also announced that money for bonuses will be sent out starting immediately. The tests are used to determine bonuses issued to teachers, principals and assistants at high-performing schools.

"We appreciate your patience through all the changes and changing timelines this past school year," said Chris Cobitz, lead of the reporting section of the Accountability Department with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

Cobitz referred to several delays since the tests were given in May. Officials initially said results on the updated math tests would be under review before setting the passing standard, with them expected to be announced in October. In September, state officials again delayed the process citing difficulty finding companies to analyze and score the new tests.

Then last month, the state board decided to raise the standard that determines what it means to be "at grade level," further complicating the outcome on tests that had already been taken, said Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for accountability and student services with Wayne County Public Schools.

McFadden said the state's decision to accept the scores was probably a wise move.

"I think when it was made public last week, they decided to just take the heat and leave it the way it was," he said.

In the final analysis, the best approach, McFadden said, is to view it as a brand new program.

"You really can't look at this year's results and compare them to last year's results," he said. "The standards that were raised by the state board, they have got a new growth formula this year. So except for the math, the whole accountability program's new.

"This is a first year, and we'll grow from this year."

According to State Superintendent June Atkinson, this is the first time the accountability standards have been raised this way since 1993 when the mathematics end-of-grade tests were introduced.

"This year should be considered as a 're-set' year," she wrote in an e-mail to school officials.

"In prior years, comparisons from year to year could be made because even when a new test was in place for the first time, the method used for setting cut scores involved equating back to prior tests. This made comparisons possible.

"This year, however, the equating method was not used to set cut scores. That means this year's ABC results should not be considered as the baseline year for the new ABCs and comparisons should not be made to last year's results."