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School superintendent: Test scores ‘a hard pill to swallow’

The new “2013 READY Accountability Report” is being presented to the N.C. State Board of Education this morning by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. The information released today includes data for state, system and school results. Parents of Rowan-Salisbury School System students can expect to receive individual scores for their children by Thanksgiving. A 30-day timeline is provided for schools to provide parents the individual student reports.
“While we are all sifting through and studying the newly released data, it is important for parents and students and everyone to understand that this is a transitional year,” said Rowan-Salisbury Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody. “The results we are seeing are baseline results that will alert and guide us in determining the key areas that our district needs to focus on in order to help our students achieve at higher levels of learning. “
Because 2012-2013 is a transitional year with new standards, there will be no impact on students or schools. There are no school grades or designations during this transition year. Results will count for the first time in the 2013-2014 school year.
The new accountability model focuses on career and college readiness and continues to measure student academic growth and the percent of students that scored proficient on the new state assessments. The assessments include more open-ended questions and real-world applications of what students are learning. This new state model of assessments aligns more closely with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results.
Lower proficiency scores for students are reported this year for all students across the state. Results are provided for the EOG (end-of-grade) and EOC (end-of-course) tests. The information in the accountability report is much more detailed than seen in previous years.
For the Rowan-Salisbury School System, the impact of more rigorous content standards in 2012-2013 is seen through a more pronounced decline in the percent of proficiency. This reflects the percent of students who are prepared for the next grade level and on track to be ready for college and career choices. Decreases in proficiency ranges from:
• 16 to 25 percentage points in reading;
• 27 to 44 percentage points in mathematics;
• 9 to 33 percentage points in science.
“Seeing the low scores is a hard pill to swallow,” says Moody. “At the same time we are provided with valuable information on changes that must happen so that we are giving our children what they need to guide them in being successful.”
Growth measurement is an indication of the rate at which students in the school learned over the past year. This standard is roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of growth for a year of instruction and defined as:
1. Did Not Meet
2. Met, or
3. Exceeded Expected Growth
Rowan-Salisbury Schools that “Exceeded” growth standards include:
• China Grove Elementary
• Overton Elementary
• West Rowan Middle
• Jesse Carson High
• East Rowan High
• Rowan County Early College
Rowan-Salisbury Schools that “Met” growth standards include:
• Bostian Elementary
• Cleveland Elementary
• Hanford Dole Elementary
• Knollwood Elementary
• Rockwell Elementary
• Corriher-Lipe Middle
• Knox Middle
• North Rowan Middle
• Salisbury High
Higher standards help teachers better prepare students to be ready for the college and/or career choices they will be making when they graduate from high school. The rigor of tests increased, which means that students are required to master more difficult material in order to be proficient. This is challenging and necessary in order to grow students so they are ready to compete in today’s world.
“We always want to see our test scores go higher and not lower,” says Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education Chair Dr. Richard Miller. “But we do traditionally see drops in scores when the bar is raised. This is not unusual nor should it be considered a negative. What it does mean is that expectations are higher for what is happening in our classrooms and that is a good thing. So, it is not that children are not learning, but rather what children are learning is being measured at much higher levels.”
Schools continue to be measured through the Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO) targets to ensure that attention remains focused on closing the performance gaps among different student subgroups.
In looking ahead, Moody says, “So, the question now is, where do we go from here? Our test scores, our growth, our proficiency, our progress is not anywhere close to where we want to be. But it does give us the starting point, the springboard into action of how to do things differently — together. We have what we need in excellent leaders, qualified teachers and bright students. Now, we will work together to pinpoint and fine tune the changes that must happen in how we provide instruction to our students and how we provide support to our teachers in accomplishing that goal.”
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Julie Morrow and Assessment and Accountability Director Colby Cochran are meeting with principals to begin this process in reviewing and discussing the testing results. “It’s a new beginning,” says Moody. “I have no doubt that we all work hard every day for our students. Now, we have the opportunity to make major changes in how we are working hard for our students each and every day. It will take an honest commitment and a willingness to embrace change for doing what is best for all students. As long as we keep that as our focus, this can be an exciting time as we turn this corner of change together.”

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