State education board member approves changes to test scores

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 12, 2014

North Carolina State Board of Education member and Salisbury native Greg Alcorn voted to approve a measure that changes how students are divided based on standardized test scores.
Alcorn said listening to state teacher of the year Karyn Dickerson convinced him that approving the measure was the best course for students across North Carolina.
“I appreciated her perspective,” he said.
According to Alcorn, Dickerson explained that a four-level scale is hard to explain to students and parents. When students were placed at level two, even a high level two, they’d often give up.
Alcorn’s district is comprised of 10 different school systems. He makes a point to regularly meet with the superintendents from those districts and “they were overall supportive of the five levels,” he said.
“I thought a five-level (scale) matched up with the grading system of A through F,” Alcorn added, saying the constancy was appealing to him.
A five-level scale makes it easier to more accurately pinpoint where a student’s skill level actually is.
The old system divided students into four different groups based on their test scores. Levels three and four were passing and levels one and two required additional help or test retakes.
Under the new system, a fifth level is added, providing an additional passing level for students that has sufficient command of the material, but aren’t quite where they need to be.
With the new scale, levels five and four are equivalent to the old levels four and three. Level three is now equivalent to the upper end of the old level two. Level two is equivalent to the lower end of level two on the old scale. Level one remains the same.
While the new system will be used with students on all grade levels, third grade will be the highest profile.
This year, schools across the state are rolling out stricter standards for third graders. All third graders must be reading on grade-level before moving on to the fourth grade. Those who have not demonstrated grade-level reading proficiency through their end of grade standardized tests or a good cause exemption, such as Read for Achieve, must attend a summer reading camps for additional instruction.
Under this new system, more third graders will pass the initial standardized end of grade test and will not have to rely on their reading portfolio or summer camp.
Alcorn stressed, however, the new scale is not a method of reducing the number of third graders who must attend summer camps.
“It was done for a more accurate scoring system,” he said.