01/21/07 — Duplin schools target improving test scores

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Duplin schools target improving test scores

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 21, 2007 2:00 AM

The push toward raising Duplin County's test scores continued last week as assistant superintendent Dr. Randall Shaver introduced several initiatives designed to help make sure students are learning their material before they take the North Carolina ABCs of Public Education end-of-grade and end-of-course tests.

"We want to require the teachers assess their students quarterly," Shaver said.

For grades kindergarten through eighth, teachers will be using a program called EduTest every nine weeks to assess their students' progress in the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, which is the state curriculum.

EduTest is already been being used on a supplemental, voluntary basis, but this semester will be the first time the program is used in such a focused way.

For high schoolers -- those students in grades nine through 12 -- this is an entirely new program. They will be assessed every four-and-a-half weeks with benchmark tests that are being designed in-house by local school officials.

Shaver explained that testing the elementary and middle school students every nine weeks allows the teachers to get an accurate idea of the progress their students are making at each semester's halfway point and end.

At the high school level where block scheduling is used, he continued, testing every four-and-a-half weeks is necessary because courses only last for one semester.

Both methods allow teachers to assess progress four times before the end-of-grade and end-of-course tests.

"We don't want to be surprised at the end of the course when they take the end-of-course or end-of-grade tests," Shaver said. "The value is that if we know how they're going to do, we can intervene.

"The only way we can be sure we meet the state and federal requirements is if we have a consistent assessment across the board and at all grade levels."

It's an approach that ties in with county superintendent Dr. Wiley Doby's "blocking and tackling" approach to education, in which the fundamentals of the curriculum are stressed. Vital to that approach, he has explained, is making sure students are remediated as soon as problems are identified, not just right before a standardized test.

The two assessments are being implemented this semester, but, Shaver said, it will take some time for both students and teachers to adjust to the new system.

He expects Duplin County to follow a path similar to that of Pender County, which saw an 8 percent improvement in the number of AYP targets it met after one year. Adequate Yearly Progress targets are those percentage-of-students-at-grade-level-proficiency benchmarks that schools must meet each year under the federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

In 2005, Duplin had only five schools -- East Duplin High, Kenansville Elementary, North Duplin Jr. Sr. High, Wallace Elementary and Wallace-Rose Hill High -- meet those standards.

"I don't think we'll see astronomical results this first year. We're not going to see an 8 percent increase in one semester," Shaver said. "The second year is when this really will pay off. I think that by the time the fall semester ends next year and we get high school results back, we'll see a tremendous improvement."