Rowan-Salisbury schools lag in reading scores
By Maggie Blackwell
Rowan-Salisbury School System parents will receive state report cards from their schools today, but there is more to the picture than meets the eye.
While reading test scores for 2007-2008 appear to be poor, the scores are the result of the state's "re-norming" of reading tests, system officials say. Recalibration is an occasional step taken by the state to continually increase the challenge to students. The first year of the new test inevitably causes scores to fall across the state.
"The reading scores are not what we want to see for our students," Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said in a prepared statement. "History has shown that when achievement standards are raised, test scores drop off, so it is important to take into consideration that the reading scores do not necessarily mean that our students are reading at a lower level."
The state sent local school systems a conversion chart that relates the schools' scores to higher scores they would have received if the tests had not been recalibrated.
Just to keep things interesting, there is another complexity.
The adjusted scores do not reflect the tests taken by some exceptional students. Those students take "alternate assessments" rather than the typical end-of-grade tests taken by most students.
So while the adjusted scores give some picture of what schools' scores might be, they are not an exact comparison to the raw scores, which do include the alternate assessments for exceptional students.
Because of the change in tests, it is a challenge to accurately compare this year's scores to last year's scores, educators say. It does appear that Rowan-Salisbury's scores this year are very close to last year's, but still fall short of the statewide average.
Using original scores for accuracy, frontrunners in elementary performance are Faith, Enochville and Bostian. In 2006-2007 the top three were Faith, Enochville and Mount Ulla, but Bostian surged ahead in 2007-2008.
The lower-scoring elementary schools are Koontz, Hanford Dole and North Rowan. The year prior, the bottom three were Koontz, Hanford Dole and Landis.
Of the system's seven middle schools, West Rowan, Corriher-Lipe, China Grove and Erwin scored higher with Knox, North Rowan and Southeast at the bottom. Corriher-Lipe, China Grove and Erwin's scores schoolwide were very close, with only fractions of a point between them.
Compared to statewide results, Rowan-Salisbury slipped from the year prior in grades 3-8. In 2006-2007, the system was only 3.2 percent behind the state average in the percentage of students who scored at or above grade level. For 2007-2008, the system lagged the state by 7.6 percent.
Across the state, 55.6 percent of students scored at or above grade level for the most recent academic year. That number was 48 percent in Rowan.
Most neighboring systems fared better:
- Iredell-Statesville: 62.5 percent.
- Davie County: 63.4 percent.
- Davidson County: 62.4 percent.
- Stanly County: 57.3 percent.
- Cabarrus County: 60.5 percent.
- Kannapolis City: 44.7 percent.
The school system has implemented a number of efforts to try to increase reading scores. These programs include reading assistants, word skills programs, support for English as a Second Language students, computer-based instructional programs and state literacy coaches at three middle schools.
"We have new initiatives, goals and expectations in place to help our students move forward," Grissom said. "Literacy coaches, tutors, and numerous reading programs are in place to help students achieve success at higher levels."
All students take end-of-grade tests as a measure for the No Child Left Behind program. Schools are measured by how many students make a score of 3 or 4 on the tests.
A grade of 3 indicates a student is working at grade level; 4 indicates a student is working above grade level. A school is considered to be at higher performance when a large number of students score at or above their grade level.
Performance at elementary schools is a critical concern in school systems, as students need to have a firm grasp of the basics early on in order to perform well in later years.
Students take end-of-grade tests for the first time in third grade.