School test scores show expected drops
by Kellen Short
Education leaders statewide have been saying for months that school testing results released this fall would likely be lower than usual due to changes in the curriculum and tests.
On Thursday, they were proven correct.
The State Board of Education released district-level data to the public Thursday, showing declines in demonstrated proficiency on End-of-Grade and End-of-Course tests for Watauga County Schools students. But the results also provided positive news in terms of student growth.
Seven of nine schools met growth targets for 2012-13, including four that exceeded growth expectations: Blowing Rock, Cove Creek, Hardin Park and Parkway. Only Green Valley and Watauga High School did not meet growth targets.
Statewide, 28.6 percent of schools exceeded expected growth, 42.7 percent met expected growth and 28.7 percent did not meet expected growth.
In terms of proficiency, exactly 55.9 percent of WCS students in grades 3-8 tested as proficient in reading, and 52.9 percent tested as proficient in math, according to state data.
Those scores exceed state averages for both reading (43.9 percent) and math (42.3 percent).
Students are scored on achievement levels of 1-4; only 3 and 4 are considered "proficient."
In science, 55.5 percent of fifth-graders and 72.7 percent of eighth graders demonstrated proficiency in science, compared to 45.4 percent of fifth-graders and 59.1 percent of eighth-graders statewide, according to the school system.
End-of-Course tests are given in English II, biology, and algebra I/integrated math I.
In Watauga County Schools:
-- Sixty percent of students were proficient in English II compared to 51.1 percent statewide.
-- Exactly 54 percent of students were proficient in algebra I/integrated math I compared to 42.6 percent statewide.
-- Proficiency rates in biology were 53.5 compared to 45.5 percent statewide.
ACT scores from Watauga High School juniors also showed that 76.4 percent met state standards, as compared to 58.5 percent statewide.
Interim Superintendent David Fonseca said that the
appearance of poor proficiency reflected more demanding standards, not lower
achievement. Students' scores on national tests such as the ACT and SAT are evidence
of such, he said.
Watauga County Schools also are pleased to see that their students' test results were better than many other school districts, he said.
"We've experienced declines in test scores each time after previous revisions to the state curriculum and test content," Fonseca said. "Results have always improved following the initial decline in test scores, and there is every reason to believe we will repeat that improvement this time around."
During this transition year, students' scores on last year's tests will not affect their grades for last year or their placement in school.
Schools used to achieve designations such as "School of Excellence" or "School of Distinction" for high achievement, but the state's new READY Accountability Model no longer uses those terms. Starting in fall 2014, schools will be assigned A-F letter grades based on 2013-14 testing results due to legislation adopted by the N.C. General Assembly this year.
Watauga County Schools sent a letter to parents Wednesday warning them to expect the lower-than-typical results when individual student results are sent out by the end of November.
"Students today are expected to solve problems and to use knowledge in new ways," State Superintendent June Atkinson said in a statement. "We have raised standards for students because we want them to be ready for anything they choose to do after high school. That means doing more to prepare them for the competitive challenges of college and careers."
Visit ncpublicschools.org/accountability/reporting to view school-level data.