LAURINBURG — Due to heightened achievement standards, the North Carolina Department of Instruction has forecasted that scores from spring End of Grade and End of Course tests, to be released next month, will show that less than half of students statewide — including in Scotland County — are performing at grade level.
In recent years, state tests have returned proficiency rates between 65 and 85 percent, but the implementation of the nationwide Common Core curriculum last year and new “cut scores,” or academic achievement standards, approved last week by the state board of education have raised the bar. The new state test scores will be the first major feedback for local school systems regarding their level of success in implementing the Common Core curriculum.
“We’re comparing apples to oranges at this point, so the new scores that will come out are truly a ground zero kind of process because there will be no comparison between curriculum a year ago and curriculum last year,” said Pamela Baldwin, Scotland County Schools assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “There are some similar things we’re teaching and objectives, but they fall in different places and they’re weighted differently.”
In addition to raw student scores, test results will be broken down to demonstrate students’ mastery of specific goals and objectives within a subject area. Those results will be used to identify particular problem areas for each student and address learning at the student’s current grade level.
“Once we receive the scores, we’ll do what we do in our testing accountability department, which is take them, break them down by objective, by goal — every school will get their own scores,” said Baldwin. “We’ll get it by subject area, by grade level, by student, by classroom teacher.”
School districts have not been informed exactly where the new mark of proficiency will lie, but they are expected to learn around the first week in November, when scores from this spring’s End of Grade and End of Course testing will be released. N.C. Department of Public Instruction analyses predict that schools will see drops as high as 30 to 40 points in terms of the percentage of students scoring at a proficiency level.
“We fully expect proficiency levels to steadily increase as teachers and students acclimate to the new content standards and expectations,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson in a release. “Other states, most notably Kentucky and New York, have had the same experience in raising standards and have seen a bounce back in subsequent years.”
In 2011-2012, 67 percent of Scotland County’s third grade students scored at or above grade level on the End of Grade test in reading, with 82.8 percent scoring at or above grade level in math. In eighth grade, 60.9 percent of students scored at grade level in reading, with 85.9 percent proficient in math.
On End of Course examinations administered to high school students, 75.8 percent of students passed the Biology EOC, with 74.6 scoring at least at grade level on the English I EOC and 62.5 passing the Algebra I EOC.
However, school officials are not panicking at the prospect of a dramatic decline in overall proficiency levels.
“We see our End of Grade, End of Course summative tests as one measure of some of the things the students learned during that course,” she said. “I think sometimes it appears that our summative tests are kind of the end-all be-all, but they are one small fraction of what we look at to make sure that students are successful.”
The school system will continue to administer frequent assessments throughout the school year to consistently gauge students’ individual progress.
“It is way more about what the teacher is seeing in the classroom, how the students are mastering those skills and able to utilize that information in different ways and a lot less about one score,” said Baldwin. “Growth is now the big model and not proficiency, which is what it should have been all along.”