05/22/12 — Students start tests as year winds down

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Students start tests as year winds down

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 22, 2012 1:46 PM

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Meadow Lane Elementary School fourth-grader student Kevin Avila-Huerta moves his answer on a smart board during a game of math bingo in Emily West's classroom on Monday. Teachers used a portion of the day to rotate between classes and participate in math activities and games in preparation for the end-of-grade tests, which are being held today through Thursday for students in grades 3-8.

It's that time of year when students are getting spring fever and teachers are anticipating a much-needed break.

Before that can happen, though, there is one final requirement that must be checked off the list -- end-of-grade tests.

Considered the benchmark by which students and schools are measured, the annual tests are administered to students in grades 3-8, while end-of-course tests are given in high schools.

Wayne Early/Middle College High School and Wayne School of Engineering, which follow the Wayne Community College calendar, have already completed their battery of tests.

Most other high schools will take end-of-course tests May 30 through June 4, with the exception of Goldsboro High School, where test dates will be June 4-7.

For those in grades 3-8, testing in reading and math begins today and continues through Thursday. Students in grades 5 and 8 are being additionally tested in science.

Essentially, everything done in the classroom has led up to this moment, officials say.

"The state develops a curriculum and these tests are developed directly from the curriculum so the kids are getting ready for the test all year long as the teachers teach the curriculum," said Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for accountability/student services for Wayne County Public Schools.

The math and reading tests have served as the measure since 1983. The state introduced its own accountability model, the ABCs, in 1997, McFadden said, followed several years ago by the federally mandated No Child Left Behind, which also includes the testing component.

This year marks the 20th and final administration of those end-of-grades tests, he added.

"There are going to be new tests," he said. "I don't know what they're doing to be called. They'll be brand-new tests but (students) will be tested the same -- reading and math in grades 3-8 and science for grades 5 and 8."

The main difference between the current model and the previous standardized test, he said, has to do with a targeted focus on "higher order thinking skills."

"For example, math problems, one-step problems, there are two or three steps required to solve a problem," he explained. "They're much more complex than the old days."

What has remained consistent is how the tests are used -- as a way for the state to determine the accountability of each school.

That is done in two ways, he said -- growth, which compares how far the student has progressed over the past year, and performance, or whether the student is at or above grade level.

Comparatively, No Child Left Behind only measures one factor, performance.

This week's battery of tests will be scored relatively quickly, McFadden said.

"We're testing on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They're supposed to have the bulk of them (done) by Friday afternoon," he said. "We'll scan them over the weekend and parents will get the results on Tuesday after Memorial Day.

"And then we do retesting for any student who did not make proficient growth. That occurs the last week of school."

Despite the anxiety that tends to accompany arrival of end-of-grade testing, McFadden said the district has fared well over the years.

"I think we have tended to go up every year a little bit," he said. "We're pretty optimistic we'll do that again this year."