The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

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.

In other business, the board:

Heard items for information on West Edgecombe Middle School, focus school of the month, and the installation of a new greenhouse at North Edgecombe High School. The greenhouse project’s anticipated completion date is Dec. 1.

Approved the following items:

The purchase and installation of athletic field lights at North Edgecombe High School and SouthWest Edgecombe High School in the amount of $193,000.

Exceptional Children Program contracts for 2013-2014.

A list of qualified observers who are available to evaluate employees on mandatory improvement plans for 2013-2014.

The Colonial Theatre and Veterans’ Museum’s use of Martin Middle School on Nov. 23 for a Christmas show.

A South Edgecombe Middle School fundraiser to sell Krispy Kreme coupons on Nov. 5-18, 2014.

Recognized PowerSchool manager/ testing assistant Patricia Benbow, employee of the month for ECPS. Public information officer Kristian Herring said Benbow “epitomizes the basic foundations of ECPS. She is ‘focused, connected, ready.’”