06/20/10 — Education council examines test scores

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Education council examines test scores

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 20, 2010 1:50 AM

More scores are in -- and Wayne County students are improving their math and reading performance, said the chief of a Wayne County Chamber of Commerce committee taking a look at schools and scores.

But that does not mean the work to make sure county students graduate with the skills they need is finished, said Dr. Ed Wilson, Wayne Education Network chairman.

The combined 81.35 percentage of Wayne County third- and eighth-grade students who scored at or above Level III on end-of-grade math tests is slightly above the state average 0f 80.9 percent.

While county third-graders ranked sixth at 80.3 percent compared to eight area counties, the eight-graders were second at 82.4 percent, trailing just behind top-scoring Johnston County's 90.7 percent.

Those were the findings of the fourth in a series of "report cards" compiled by the Wayne Education Network Council.

The report focuses on the 2008-09 academic performance of county students as compared to Johnston, Wake, Wilson, Duplin, Sampson, Lenoir, Pitt and Greene counties, as measured by the state's ABCs of Public Education.

Previous report cards have dealt with school performance and student performance under the ABCs.

"Then we have the No Child Left Behind Law where we have done the schools and now we are doing the individual students' academic performance," Wilson said.

There are five different tests -- math and reading end-of-grade for third-graders and eighth-graders and a composite of all end-of-course tests for high school students.

In math, 80.3 percent of Wayne third-graders scored at or above Level III compared to 87.9 percent for Johnson County on the high end and Greene County at 72.2 percent on the low end.

However, eighth-graders scored at 82.4 percent compared to Johnston County's 90.7 percent and 82.2 percent for third-place Wake County. Greene County students were on the low end again at 63.3 percent.

"In math you can see that we jumped up significantly between grade three and grade eight which is an important thing in terms of performance compared to the other counties," Wilson said. "As far as reading, again there is some significant improvement between grade three and grade eight."

In reading Wayne third-graders were fifth at 59.4 percent. Johnston led the nine counties at 72.2 percent. Greene County was last at 49.1 percent.

Wayne eighth-graders were third at 64.4 percent behind Johnson at 73.9 percent and Wake at 73.4 percent. Greene County was last at 42.8 percent.

Wilson said the high school scores showed promise as well, but indicated that there was much more work to do.

"On the high school level (composite of all end-of-course tests) performance was not bad behind Johnston (76.6 percent) and Wake (80.1 percent) counties with 70.7 percent of the high school students in Wayne County scoring above the competency level," he said. "But there is still 29.3 percent that is not there. I think it tells us that comparatively we are doing really well, but nobody is doing well -- not as well as all of us would like for it to be."

There are a couple of "new wrinkles" in ways available to help students, he said.

"When students get their tests in grades three and eight, as well as high school, they get a Lexile measure on the end-of-grade or end-of-course test report," Wilson said. "What that does it tells where the student's reading ability is. What parents can do, they can look at that and when they select materials for their kids to read they can gear it toward their reading level."

The council has awarded a mini-grant to Brogden Primary School at Dudley to put the Lexile Framework in its media center.

"What the teachers will do there is they will label the books based on this Lexile score," he said. "Then when kids, if you are going to give them something to read, don't give them something to read way above the Lexile score or way below it. You give them something right on their level. As that improves when they take tests, then you keep moving up. So it is kind of a guide for parents to give their kids materials on the appropriate reading level."

Math ability is assessed by the Quantile measure.

"It says how well the student understand the math concepts," he said. "Then you can target math activities for kids to improve that. You can go online at www.quantiles.com or DPI (Department of Public Instruction) and find that information."

Wilson said he thinks the scores are good considering the number of students on free and reduced lunches.

"It is one of the higher ones in the state," he said. "It is like 60 some percent. It is high, I think we do a remarkably good job. Let's say that, then look at the 30 percent of the kids who are not graduating from high school. I think we have a serious problem all over the country and all over the state particularly if you compare it to some of these other countries -- the Oriental countries in particular where they go to school longer and their academic performance is so much better.

"How are kids going to be competitive in the world economy which is going to be even more intertwined as time goes on? I know the school system has a lot of things in place trying to improve those scores including staff development for facility, mentoring of faculty particularly the new faculty."