01/13/14 — Student testing just beginning

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Student testing just beginning

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 13, 2014 1:46 PM

Student testing began this past week, as high schoolers wrap up the fall semester.

But the stringent season of tests being imposed by the state is just beginning.

Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for accountability/student services for Wayne County Public Schools, said there is some "benchmark testing" being conducted in the younger grades but no formal testing. For now.

End-of-grade tests will be especially monitored this year, particularly for third-graders, since legislation was introduced to ensure reading proficiency is improved by the end of that grade.

The bulk of the testing that began Thursday, though, was for schools operating on a semester schedule.

A new state law requires testing be done within the last five days of the semester, McFadden said, which can vary by school district.

"There used to be 10 end-of-course tests. But then the Legislature came in and got rid of all but three of them. So there are only three end-of-course tests," he said. "But at the same time they added three (called) N.C. Final Exams, required state testing. So now, in addition to the three end-of-course tests, we're doing, I think, 32 different N.C. Final Exams.

"This Legislature came in and said, 'We're going to reduce testing,' which it did, and then they increased (the number of tests)."

In addition to the academic course testing, the district is also administering CTE, career and technical education, tests at the same time, which also must be completed in the last five days of the semester.

That equates to high schoolers taking tests through Tuesday, with Wednesday designated as a make-up day for anyone who missed the test. Students across the district are then on semester break Thursday and Friday, with Monday being the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Thursday and Friday are designated teacher workdays, allowing many of them the time to compile tests and begin the scheduling process for the next semester, which starts Jan. 21.

"We use the state standards. We gear our grading system countywide on those state standards," McFadden explained. "We basically score them and grade them right here.

"The N.C. Final Exams, we scan them here but send raw scores back to the teachers. They grade them for teachers. CTEs are the same way. They're graded by teachers, and all this data gets uploaded to Raleigh."

The challenge of over-testing students throughout the school year is ultimately an ironic twist, McFadden said.

"For a legislature that promised less testing, it's phenomenal how much more testing we're doing," he said. "We have got to get the legislators out of the classroom."