Use test scores as only one measure

November 20, 2013

Before parents and community members get too upset over the latest End of Grade and End of Course test scores, all should remember two very important things — firstly, these test scores are only one measure of student achievement and secondly, no test should ever be the thermometer by which we judge students, a school system or the teachers within it.

Those two elements should be just as true when scores are great as it when, like this go-round, the numbers are, at best, lukewarm.

Unlike state legislators and educational gurus, we don’t believe a revolving door of academic programs will deliver the numbers they want to achieve merely on the merits of the curriculum and most assuredly not within the first couple years of implementation.

Such is the case with the latest EOG and EOC scores which reflect the first testing administered under the new Common Core/Essential Standards curriculum, implemented across Clinton City and Sampson County public schools last year.

While the results weren’t abysmal, they were far from where local educators want them to be. Yet none were too surprised at the first scores released, calling them expected based on the major transition students — and teachers — had to go through as course rigor was increased and teacher strategies revised.

As Tommy Macon, assistant superintendent for Sampson County Schools said, there is obviously a learning curve that should be considered when taking a look at the latest scores which, based on Department of Public Instruction data, were generally down across North Carolina.

That doesn’t mean school officials were by any means happy with the scores nor that parents and community members should lower their expectations for the school systems.What it means is that these scores should not be the bar by which teachers, students and school systems are judged. It is a component only, and not one we believe should be the most heavily weighted, particularly this first year.

It is to the credit of educators that they see the bigger picture, understanding that they have a ways to go before student achievement under the new curriculum is where it needs to be and having plans in place to ensure growth from one year to the next, not just in the scores but in the students themselves.

Also to their credit is the fact that they aren’t putting all educational hope into this year’s scores, realizing that the latest results, alone, are not indicative of the overall progress students are making in either school system.

Teachers can see student progress far more clearly on a day-to-day basis than any test can measure, and that should always be a factor, though it is often shoved aside by lawmakers who want immediate results that will make the state, and thus themselves, look better in the national educational spotlight.

Sometimes we believe the perception far outweighs the reality in the minds of state officials.

We are fortunate in Sampson County that educators in both public school systems have a far different view, one that keeps the overall student at the forefront, with one eye on academic growth and the other still firmly focused on the complete development of the young people they are preparing for an ever-changing world.

Our latest test scores in Sampson show room for improvement. The good news is local educators have built a solid academic foundation that has the right ingredients for the expected growth. We believe, if education gurus don’t change the curriculum formula again in the near future, that test scores will reflect the hard work of teachers who’ve always had the desire to see their students be the very best they can be.