11/08/13 — Schools: Test score drops were anticipated

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Schools: Test score drops were anticipated

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 8, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne County Public Schools officials were not surprised that school performance test scores dropped dramatically, attributing the results to the transition to the READY school accountability model.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction released the state's final 2012-13 results on Thursday.

Throughout the process, the district and its counterparts around the state have been poised for the lower scores, anticipated by the sweeping changes made to the testing and accountability programs in public schools. This past year, North Carolina moved to the READY model, replacing the ABCs model that had been in place since the mid-1990s. The more rigorous tests and new standards changed the way performance is measured for the end of grade and end of course test in all curriculum and subject areas.

"In the past when tests or accountability standards were changed in a single area, a drop in performance composites or test scores followed for that area," said Dr. Steven Taylor, WCPS Superintendent. "It is worth noting that when this trend occurred, academic performance in the curriculum areas that were not changed helped soften the impact to the overall school performance composites after the data was compiled. This, however, was not the case this past school year, as every curriculum used by the public schools of North Carolina changed along with the standards, tests and accountability formulas. This resulted in a sharp drop in performance composites in schools locally and across the state."

The new assessment format is supposed to better assess how prepared students are for the college or workforce, rather than just for the next school grade. Although the drop was expected, administrators have maintained that it does not mean learning and academic growth did not take place.

"It is important to note that students continued to grow academically in 2012-13, even though the tougher achievement standards reflect fewer students meeting the standard. Much like when a player is promoted from minor league baseball to the majors, their talents and abilities are still the same but they are required to perform and compete at a higher level," said Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for accountability and student services.

"We're right in the middle of the pack for eastern North Carolina. We were prepared for worse but we hoped for better."

Because this is a baseline year for all public schools in the state, there will be no penalties for students or schools. Local administrators, however, will use the information to take a hard look at their programs.

"Our staff and administrators will work together to determine areas of concern, evaluate education programs currently in place and develop and implement necessary strategies in order to increase student performance and proficiency as it pertains to the new READY accountability standards program," Taylor said. "To rise to this higher level of academic excellence, our district recognizes that there is much work ahead for all of our schools. We expect our students and staff to rise to the challenge before them, and as a result see performance composites rise in the coming years, as has also been trended by our schools in the past when the state made changes to curriculum and accountability standards."

At an education forum presented in Goldsboro on Thursday, at which the state's schools superintendent was slated to be part of a panel discussion but sent someone in her place to handle release of the test results, the representative commented on the anticipated results.

Dr. Angela Hinson Quick, senior vice president, talent development, NC New Schools, said the revamp of accountability standards was four years in the making, "to kind of overhaul what we teach and what we expect our student to learn in the classrooms."

The results, she admitted, reflected a "big difference in performance scores."

"There are two things that I would say," she told the audience. "That when you see the results, you will see a decrease of student performance. But Dr. Atkinson would say that doesn't necessarily mean that our schools are doing worse than they did last year. What it means is they have changed the system."

She likened it to "converting to the metric system" and suggested past history would prove out the theory that change isn't necessarily a bad thing and usually what happens is teachers and students rise to the challenge.

"Eventually we will see these scores rise," she said. "I can assure you that everyone in the K-12 spectrum is working hard to figure out ways."

WCPS officials said that within the next 30 days, parents can expect to receive a report from their child's school which will include proficiency results and an explanation of the data.