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Steady rise in math scores as figures show elementary students improved 7 percent

By Sarah Nagem
snagem@salisburypost.com
Elementary and middle school students in the Rowan-Salisbury School System improved their end-of-grade math scores this year.
Proficiency ratings among students in grades 3 through 5 jumped 10 percent to 15 percent this year from the prior year, according to numbers the school system released Friday afternoon.
In the middle schools, seventh- and eighth-grade proficiency ratings also increased, 12.3 and 5.7 percent respectively. Only sixth-grade scores declined, and that was slight ó barely 1 percent.
The numbers show a steady increase in proficiency ratings two years in a row.
This past school year, 65.7 percent of students in the combined elementary grades achieved a proficient score on the end-of-grade math test, according to the school system. During the 2006-07 school year, the number was 58.3 percent. The year before, it was 55.6 percent.
In middle schools, 59.2 percent of students tested proficient this past school year. That compares to 56.1 percent during the 2006-07 school year and 51 percent the prior year.
“Our teachers have worked very hard,” said Dr. Rebecca Smith, assistant superintendent for curriculum.
Third- and fourth-grade students made the biggest improvements.
This past school year, 70.1 percent of third-graders in Rowan-Salisbury schools tested at a proficient level in math. During the 2006-07 school, 62 percent tested proficient and not quite 61 percent the year before that.
Sixty-six percent of fourth-graders tested proficient in the past year, compared to 57.6 percent in 2006-2007 and 51.5 percent in the 2005-06 school year.
Seventh-graders’ scores weren’t far behind, with 60.2 percent testing proficient compared to 53.6 in the 2006-2007 school year.
The better numbers are good news, but Smith said the school system still has some work to do.
“We’re pleased, but we need to continue growing,” Smith said. “We need that.”
Statewide math scores have not yet been released.
In Rowan-Salisbury schools, Smith said, teachers put a strong focus on mathematics this past school year.
Teachers had new ways to assess what their students were learning, she said. They also found ways to teach math without using a textbook.
Many educators used less traditional approaches to teaching math to help students learn in different ways, Smith said. For example, some students got to use math manipulatives ó like using real objects to represent numbers. This helps some students learn better, she said.
Teachers also worked with curriculum coaches at the schools, Smith said.
On Friday, the school system also released end-of-course test results for high school classes. Scores jumped this past school year in Algebra I, biology, English I, geometry and U.S. history. Scores fell slightly in Algebra II and civics/economics.
The biggest improvement came in U.S. history, where 68.4 percent of students passed the test last school year. The prior year, 61 percent passed.
Scores
Percentage of students who tested proficient on end-of-grade math test:

        2005-6         2006-7        2007-8
Third grade:      60.9 percent      62 percent       70.1percent
Fourth grade:     51.5 percent    57.6 percent        66   percent
Fifth grade:    54 percent    55.2 percent    61.1 percent
Sixth grade:    50.5 percent    56.6 percent    55.9 percent
Seventh grade:     53.7 percent    53.6 percent    60.2 percent
Eighth grade:    49.2 percent    58.3 percent    61.6 percent

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