clintonnc.com

City, county schools anticipate release of state test scores

Lauren Williams Staff Writer

October 27, 2013

After much waiting and wondering, schools and communities across North Carolina are anticipating the release of state test scores from the End-of-Grade and End-of-Course assessments taken during the 2012-2013 school year. As that release of information draws near, Clinton City Schools and Sampson County Schools recently shared what parents and the community should expect, both from the scores and from the school systems.


“We’ve been waiting on this since the end of last year,” said Lenora Locklear, K-12 Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the city schools. “It’s taken the state board and DPI (Department of Public Instruction) a while to provide us with cut scores for the EOG and EOC assessments. That’s why the delay.”


It has taken longer to determine those cut scores — also known as academic standards — and academic achievement descriptors because of the implementation of the new Common Core/Essential Standards curriculum last year, Locklear noted.


“The 2012-2013 school year was when it was implemented for the first time,” she said of the curriculum which was adopted by the state in June 2010, “and the assessments reflect those new standards.”


“The Common Core State Standards and Essential Standards have raised student expectations and increased content rigor,” explained Tommy Macon, Assistant Superintendent of Academics and Students Services for the county schools. “Now students are required to meet a higher level of standard of proficiency on the EOG and EOC tests. These new proficiency standards address how ready students are for college and careers.”


Originally set to be released in October, the release date was pushed back and is now set for Thursday, Nov. 7. “We had anticipated a delay,” said Locklear, adding that the school system understands that the release of the scores and how to interpret them is something that DPI wants to get right. “It’s very important information that we need to know and to know how to communicate it effectively.”


Scores released on Nov. 7 will be those for grades 3-8 in subjects English/Language Arts and Math; for fifth and eighth grades in science ; and for three high school courses — Algebra I/Math I, Biology, and English II. The scores will be used to set a baseline for new assessments in the future, meaning that they will not adversely affect current students’ grades.


Still, Locklear warned that “they’re going to look different” than scores have in recent years.


“We’ve always seen a drop (when starting a new curriculum),” she pointed out, recalling a couple of major curriculum changes in the past 10 years that previously brought about the same kinds of growing pains. “Always within two to three years we see a gradual increase (in scores). Proficiency levels are expected to increase as teachers and students get acclimated to the curriculum.”


And that acclimation has been kicked into high gear, shared Jeana Moore, Director of Elementary Education for the county schools, thanks to teachers who “have embraced the new standards.”


“It is evident that they (the teachers) are working really hard to understand and deconstruct the standards in an effort to increase the level of rigor in their classrooms,” she said.


Calling the raised expectations and the increase in course rigor “a major transition,” Macon added that “obviously a learning curve for all is to be expected” but also praised teachers for having “accepted the challenge” and for “actively learning new proven teacher’s strategies to increase student learning and growth.”


“Currently, we can observe student learning and growth, and over time, we expect to see a corresponding increase in student proficiency as well,” he said.


Although schools are working hard to adjust to the new curriculum, DPI is projecting that some scores may drop as much as 30 to 40 percent, according to an Oct. 3 news release. However, both local school systems indicated that their focus would be not so much on the actual scores but on the evidence of growth.


“While they (the scores) will be different, what we’re really looking at is growth. That’s what’s important,” informed Locklear. “It’ll be a different picture. We’re going to see drops but we haven’t lost any ground in student learning.”


“Even though the pending release scores for 2012-2013 will show a decrease in student proficiency, the scores are not totally indicative of the overall progress that our students are making,” stressed Macon. “The 2012-2013 scores are a baseline for the new assessments and the state’s accountability model and should not be compared with previous student proficiency.”


Despite the expected drop, the information gleaned from the scores “will give us a better picture of how our students are learning to apply the skills they need in order to be prepared for jobs and careers,” Locklear continued, adding that it will also help the school system answer questions like “Are we teaching what students need to learn?”


Similarly, for Sampson County Schools, “the scores will prove that our teachers and students are still learning and growing,” said Moore, “and that over time, this growth will translate into increased proficiency levels under the new rigorous measures of our standardized assessments.”


Once the school systems have these scores in hand, school officials will set out to share the information with students, parents, and the school boards.


“The information will be shared with parents as soon as principals are able analyze the scores and discuss them with teachers,” said Locklear for the city schools. “We do realize that parents are very much interested in how their students performed, and we want to show them what the scores mean. We want to show them the growth.”


As the school systems move forward into the second school year with the new curriculum, “we want to make sure that we do whatever we need to do in order to rise to the new standards,” Locklear assured. “I believe we’re going to rise to meet these new expectations.”


For Macon, “the fact that we (the county schools) are graduating the highest percentage of students than ever before is just one indicator that education is moving in the right direction.”


“We, as a district, will certainly live up to our mission of being dedicated to continuous improvement,” also promised Moore.


For questions or more information from Clinton City Schools, please contact Lenora Locklear at 910-592-3132, ext. 1106 or via email at jllocklear@clinton.k12.nc.us. Information can also be found on the city schools’ district website at www.clinton.k12.nc.us as well as on each school’s website.


For questions or more information from Sampson County Schools, please contact Jeana Moore, Elementary Education (ext. 20122), Becky Lockamy, Middle School Education (ext. 20131), or Tommy Macon, Secondary Education (ext. 20136) at 910-592-1401. Also visit www.sampson.k12.nc.us.


Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at lwilliams@civitasmedia.com.