08/04/05 — Wayne County Schools test scores have reached a plateau

View Archive

Wayne County Schools test scores have reached a plateau

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 4, 2005 1:50 PM

End-of-year test scores for public school students in Wayne County have leveled off, school officials say.

Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for testing and student accountability, told the county Board of Education this week county schools continue to demonstrate strong academic performance at a time when student demographics are changing.

"After several years of high growth, progressing and improving, it is not surprising to see a plateau as in other systems," McFadden said. "We are concerned about it, but it is important to look at academic growth as a trend over many years. We have made tremendous strides in the past 10 years."

The state's Preliminary Adequate Yearly Progress report was released last month by the Department of Public Instruction. McFadden said those results were preliminary and unofficial. The results are expected to be made official when the state Board of Education meets this week.

In the initial findings, 18 schools in Wayne County reported either high or expected improvement in test scores. Several barely missed posting a passing grade.

McFadden said that based on data spanning more than a decade, student performance in Wayne County has increased almost 30 percentage points in math and 20 percentage points in reading.

"We have a history of moving up dramatically in the school system," he told the board. "What's important to me is the trend. We have had an upward trend until about three years ago and then reached a plateau."

After several years of significant improvement, McFadden said that this year's scores show that all but the hardest to reach students have attained grade level achievement. For 2004-05, results showed 85 percent of students as proficient in math and 81.8 percent as proficient in reading.

"We are now striving to reach the remaining 15 to 18 percent of the population to increase their achievement level," he said.

McFadden said that 56 percent of students districtwide receive free or reduced-priced lunches, up from 47 percent four years ago. The number of minority students, specifically Hispanic and Asian students, has also increased dramatically, as have those identified as students with special needs.

Successfully reaching the populations of minority students, students with disabilities, and students on free or reduced lunch, will take increased resources, he said.

Several school board members expressed concern over what to do for students who are struggling to keep up.

"The children that are being left behind are the ones they say they're trying to help," said school board member Thelma Smith, referring to the subgroups whose test scores did reach the No Child Left Behind goals.

"My problem is, what are we going to do with the ones who are still being left behind?"

Smith suggested the board implement a policy making remediation availabe for such students.

"If we're serious, really serious, about closing that gap, the board is going to have to take a stand," she said.

Board Chairman Lehman Smith said making it mandatory for lagging students to attend Saturday Academy or summer school would send a message that students will not be promoted until their test scores improved.

Board member Shirley Sims said even offering programs such as Saturday Academy does not guarantee that the students who need the extra work will attend.

"I would hope that the law would allow us to mandate that they have to go," Sims said. "(But) we can't make them get there. We can't go from door to door and put them on the bus."

Board member George Moye recalled a pilot program offered several years at two schools for third graders who performed below grade level in reading.

"The attendance, I recall, was 52 to 54 percent," he said. "That was shocking to me. Here was an opportunity for parents to get their children up to snuff on reading and did not. I don't know how you get parents behind the education of their children."

Board member Pete Gurley said concern over the achievement gap is not new. He said it might require the school board hold a brain-storming session to try to come up with some workable solutions to the problem.

"You have got to have something to make those children want to go," Gurley said.