The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

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November 6, 2013

School board talks about anticipated drops in test scores

TARBORO — The Edgecombe County Board of Education discussed anticipated drops in test scores at its Monday evening meeting. The North Carolina Board of Education will reveal test scores for the 2012-2013 school year at its Thursday morning meeting.

“I think it’s important to note, even if we have lower proficiency levels, our students in North Carolina are still growing,” said Edgecombe County Public Schools (ECPS) director of accountability Janet Morris. She shared with the board that statistically, every time North Carolina changes its standards, tests results have dropped, 18.4 percent when math standards changed in 2005-06, and 13.2 percent when reading standards changed in 2007-08. More than the standards changed last school year, so even larger drops in test scores are expected.

For the first time in North Carolina history, the state board of education has adopted a new standard course of study, new student assessments and a new school accountability model, ECPS Superintendent John Farrelly told the board.

“We did not expect wonderful things to happen this year, with the three things changing,” Board Chair Ann Kent said to Farrelly. She went on to say that it’s “very hard to hit the moving target” for student achievement.

On a positive note, Kent asked the assistant principals and principals in the board room to stand and led a round of applause for the administrators and their efforts to raise student achievement.

“This is about the finest bunch of educators that I’ve ever worked with on the board,” Kent said.

Not taking into account the anticipated drops in scores statewide, Farrelly said ECPS students typically perform somewhere between 18 and 25 percent lower than the state average on accountability tests.

“We do need to create a sense of urgency in the county to raise student performance,” he said. “We didn’t get here overnight, we’re not going to raise student achievement significantly overnight…We’re going to get there, but it’s going to take time.”

Farrelly said he shared preliminary test results with the district’s principals, and told them,

“We’re staying the course. We’ve got a lot of good things going on in the school system. We’re going to continue doing the right things.”

Faculty meetings will be called at each school in the district Thursday afternoon to discuss test results.

“We’ll certainly take a lot of time to reflect and process, and think about next steps,” Farrelly said.

One of those steps is the implementation of school improvement plans for each of the 14 schools in the district. The board approved those school improvement plans at Monday’s meeting. Vice chair Evelyn Wilson offered the motion and board member Olga Dickens seconded the motion.

Administering more formative student assessments is another strategy for improving student achievement that Farrelly proposed at Monday’s meeting.

“I think that’s the direction we need to head in the short-term,” Farrelly said. “Most school districts do give some kind of quarterly assessment.”

The idea of the assessments is to continuously monitor student achievement and adapt teaching to help students meet accountability standards.

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