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N.C. schools' test scores drop

Posted November 6, 2008

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— Fewer students passed the state’s end-of-grade reading tests, partly due to increased standards, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's ABCs/AYP report released Thursday.

On the 2008 reading and mathematics assessments, 52.6 percent of students scored at or above the proficient level on both general tests given in grades 3-8.

Reading performance ranged from 52.5 percent proficient at the seventh grade to 60.9 percent proficient for fourth and sixth grades. Math performance ranged from 68.6 percent proficient at seventh grade to 74.8 percent proficient for third grade.

In the previous year, 92 percent of fifth graders passed the reading exam.

This year, however, students faced the first comprehensive increase in reading proficiency standards since the ABCs model began in 1996.

"It would be so easy for us to coast along, to simply enjoy the higher percentages of success that are reflected in the scores of a lower standard, but it would not be the right thing for us to do," said Howard Lee, chairman of the State Board of Education.

"You should view this year simply as a baseline."

Panels of practicing teachers formed the new, tougher test standards this summer, and the education board approved them in October. Students are required to get more answers right to be deemed proficient in the subject.

In 2007-2008 school year, 31 percent (748 schools) met the standards for Adequate Yearly Progress. Sixty-nine percent of schools (1,664 schools) did not make AYP.

In the previous school year, 44.8 percent of schools made AYP, while 52.8 percent did not.

Of the 101 schools deemed low-performing, Wake County had two, Durham County had nine and Cumberland County had six on the list. Wake had four of the state's 29 Honor Schools of Excellence.

Allen Ellzey, president of Salem Middle School in Apex, said that earning the state's highest honor required lots of preparation for the new standards. The school launched after-school tutoring sessions for language arts and math, with a dedicated teacher for each grade level, and Ellzey credited teachers for helping students get over the new, higher hurdle.

"Our teachers share best practices, they look at data, and it's a combination of all those things," she said.

More than 500 schools entered Title I School Improvement or continued in School Improvement, triggering sanctions that may include public school choice, supplemental educational services for qualified students and other actions.

Twenty-two schools exited School Improvement based on their 2007-08 performance. Under the ABCs model, schools are given specific designations based on their performance.

Parents and the public should not be discouraged by the drop in numbers, state officials said, because it was unlikely students would be able to meet new standards in the first year.

"We have to keep raising the bar and demanding more of our students," Gov. Mike Easley said. "When they all start scoring 90 percent, the standards have to be raised. That is how you make improvement."

June Atkinson, superintendent of public instruction, compared the greater challenges students had in passing the tests to the bigger difficulties Mark Spitz would have in equaling his 1972 record of seven Olympic gold medals in today's swimming world.

"The key is to remember that our students are continuing to learn. They have not let up, and teachers have not either," Atkinson said.

Higher-education officials praised the move to raise standards, saying that students would ultimately learn more and be better equipped to compete in a global economy.

"The State Board's commitment to rigorous standards for students will lead to increasing numbers of North Carolina students finding success at our community colleges and universities," University of North Carolina System President Erskine Bowles and North Carolina Community College System President Scott Ralls said in a joint statement.

"This is the right agenda for our students and our state."

The North Carolina Business Committee for Education and Chamber of Commerce echoed those ideas.

"If the public schools truly are to be a pipeline to high-skill jobs in our state, then the state's standards must reflect the increased competitiveness of today's global economy," the groups said in a joint statement. "The State Board ... is committed to ensuring that all children are prepared to graduate globally competitive for work and further education."


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  • Brindy Nov 7, 2008

    I am going to assume you don't teach in Wake County, because in Wake Co at 20+ years experience, with Nat'l Board and a Masters, you make over $63,000. Not to say you don't derserve it, of course you do!

    Yes, on another note, that 6th grader performing on a 2nd grade level is FORCED to take the same test as his non dislabed 6th grade peers. It's obvious this child has some type of learning disablilty, diagnosed or not. So is thAt fair? Most of the kids who failed are special ed kids who are not on grade level and LEP students who are still learning to speak English. One size does not fit all! The county gives LEP student ONE year to become proficient in the language, then they have to take the test. Let's see you learn a foreign language in a year then pass the school's tests. It's beyond ridiculous.

  • Bob3425 Nov 7, 2008

    "Cumberland County had six on the list", look what what we pay the administator. Maybe we should give them a bonus, that how it work in the US now is it. bonus for performing badly.

  • seeingthru Nov 6, 2008

    well I just don't think kids try, they seem to be quite happy being barely literate-so busy playing electonic gadgets to actually sit down and LEARN the old fashioned and time proven way, if a kid doesn't or won't learn basics hopefully they will find out later in life that they should have ( if they want a decent job). hence the GED etc.

  • grayboomerang Nov 6, 2008

    As a former Wake Co. teacher....I personally feel that these tests ruin education. I was even a core teacher and it burned me out. I was no longer teaching music, I was being hauled into the classroom at least once a week teach math so the 4th graders would pass the end of year testing.

    There are alot of things these kids miss out on in this day and age that make well rounded students...because gosh oh mighty, they have to get ready for that test. Teachers burn out because they aren't TEACHING the kids much of anything other than test question prep.

    The final straw for me..was the year that I saw kids being taken out of electives that they really wanted to take and into test prep classes. Some of these elementary kdis no longer had any PE. Some of these young boys strived on athletics...it helped motivate them to get up in the AM and come to school and gave them an outlet for their energy.

    These tests are ruining education

  • jkca Nov 6, 2008

    Just for teachers: there are many out here who appreciate everything you do. We commend your hard work and you deserve your salaries and then some. Some parents have failed to take any accountabilty of their child's success (or lack thereof) in school. Everyone should remember that parents are a child's first teacher.

  • SalemWWX Nov 6, 2008

    "Wish Obama would do more to promote strong families instead of encouraging government dependance, that would help the schools, too."

    Therein lies my biggest issue with the great one and his Obama-tons....every solution he has offered to every problem he has addressed is bigger, fatter, and more expensive federal government. That hasn't solved education yet, and it can't at this point.... It's got to be torn down, decentralized, and rebuilt from the ground up starting with local control at the local level. A bureaucrat in Raleigh or Washington won't pay any attention to you until election time. The school board member who lives across town and who's in your speed dial might....

  • Cricket at the lake Nov 6, 2008

    Did illegal immigrant children that can't read or speak English well lower the standards? The schools have to feed the children, teach them morals and manners and then get around to teaching. Corporal punishmnet of any kind isn't allowed so the classrooms are full of wild kids. The ultra powerful teacher's unions control the education departments at the state and federal level. We spend a fortune to send our child to private school and yes, we deserve a tax break. Charter schools are working great and those turned over to the private sector do well. There are a lot of societal problems contributing to the school problems but there are also answers. Wish Obama would do more to promote strong families instead of encouraging government dependance, that would help the schools, too.

  • TheAdmiral Nov 6, 2008

    Blame whoever you want. But there is really three groups here to blame:

    1. The parents with the "I can't make my kid so anything..." attitude. You can do something - you just basically said you don't have the spine to do it. Sometime love comes in a paddle. Sure it is gonna hurt, but the point comes in abundantly clear.

    2. The school system consistently shoving the Political Correct agenda in that they push that everyone needs to be intolerant, self-serving, and tantrum throwing enemies of parents. In fact, the school system believes the parents are so stupid, that they pawn the schools against the parents on a daily basis.

    3. The government. They believe that everyone is entitled to the same education. Unfortunately, they believe that bright students should not be bright but be dumbed down to the lowest achieving kid in the school, just so that they can make their numbers look good.

    The same people who say the standards are too tough should probably retire.

  • miketroll3572 Nov 6, 2008

    Duh! No kidding. And we got 4 more yrs of democrat controll. WCPSS ain't worth diddly squat!

  • ifonly Nov 6, 2008