GCS sees drop in End-of-Grade test scores in first year of new tests

GCS

GREENSBORO, N.C. — New tests, more challenging lessons and higher expectations for students led to a significant – and expected – drop in Guilford County Schools’ 2012-13 End-of-Grade (EOG) and End-of-Course (EOC) scores. That’s what happened in school districts across North Carolina, which are now setting new benchmarks in the wake of the new data released today by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

Students in third through eighth grades take End-Of-Grade tests in reading and math; fifth- and eighth-grade students also take EOGs in science. Students who take Algebra I (now called Math I), English II and Biology take End-Of-Course tests. Overall, more than 56,500 GCS students took more than 95,500 required EOGs and EOCs at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

The district’s overall performance composite on the new tests was 43.2, which means students showed proficiency on 43.2 percent of all tests taken. A closer look at the data shows 41.1 percent proficiency in EOG reading, 41.6 percent proficiency in EOG math and 45.1 percent proficiency in EOG science. End-of-Course scores showed students were 48.4 percent proficient.

The state results are similar, with an overall performance composite of 44.7.

“While these results are not unexpected given the changes in tests, standards, curriculum and expectations, we are reviewing the data so we can make improvements,” said GCS Superintendent Maurice “Mo” Green. “We know we have work to do in many areas. It’s time to set new goals and bring these scores up.”

Since this is the first year under the new, more difficult state standards, curriculum and tests, the data cannot be compared to previous years’ scores.

“We are now asking our students to dive deeper into each lesson,” said Dr. Beth Folger, chief academic officer. “The new standards focus on analytical-thinking skills and applying what students have learned, rather than simply memorizing information. We think that’s a good thing long-term, but short-term, the results are frustrating.”

It’s also harder for students to show proficiency, even if their performance compared to other students in North Carolina improved from 2012 to 2013. Here’s why: imagine student A scores right in the middle of all students tested on the math EOG in the 2011-12 school year. Half the students in the state score lower than him and half score higher. Under the previous system, that student would have been considered proficient, scoring at a Level 3.

Now imagine student A scores better than 60 percent of the students on the math EOG for the 2012-13 school year. That means he improved over the course of a year, but under the new system, he’s not considered proficient. He’s now at a Level 2.

Students across GCS and across the state will see big drops in their individual scores. It’s very possible that a student who’s always scored very high – a Level 4 – could now drop to a Level 2.

“These are the same kids who did well last year and the year before, and will continue to do well,” said Folger. “Lower test scores do not mean our students lost ground or didn’t learn. It means the state changed the way we determine whether students truly understand the content.”

The new state accountability model measures four additional indicators: the ACT, ACT WorkKeys, math course rigor and four-year cohort graduation rate.

The ACT score measures the percentage of students who meet the minimum academic requirement for the UNC system schools, which is a 17. In GCS, the number was 56.3 percent, compared to the state’s 58.5 percent.

ACT WorkKeys is a series of tests that measure foundational and other job skills. The state measured the percentage of Career and Technical Education completers who achieved a Silver certificate or higher on the ACT WorkKeys; in GCS, 60.1 percent achieved that level, compared to 67.3 percent statewide.

Math Course Rigor measures the percentage of graduates who took a third math class in high school; the number for both GCS and the state was over 95 percent.

GCS reached a record-high graduation rate in 2012-13, with 86.2 percent of students graduating. That was compared to the state average of 82.5 percent.

The new state model also sets Annual Measurable Objectives, which are performance and participation targets for districts and schools. There are a total of 91 possible federal targets. This year, North Carolina also added 210 possible state targets; GCS has 206. Smaller GCS schools, including Haynes-Inman, The Middle College at GTCC-Greensboro or the STEM Early College at N.C. A&T, have just a few targets. High Point Central High has the largest number, with 37 federal and 92 state targets.

The targets are based on subgroups, which are groups of at least 30 students in different categories. Under the previous federal No Child Left Behind rules, a subgroup needed at least 40 students; dropping the number to 30 students means just one student can dramatically impact the data.

Targets can include measuring the performance and participation of all students in a school or district, all the way to measuring very specific groups of students. Schools must ensure that 95 percent of students in a subgroup take the required tests; if they miss that target in just one subgroup, the school will not meet its AMO goals. In GCS, 17 schools missed at least one participation target, including 14 high schools.

Here’s how that can happen: a middle school may have exactly 30 students with disabilities who are scheduled to take the eighth-grade science EOG. If one student is out and doesn’t take the test, the school will still meet its target with 96.7 percent of students participating. If two students are out and don’t take the test, that drops the participation level for that one particular group to 93.3 percent, and the school will fail to meet its participation targets.

Despite the overall drop in proficiency, 78 GCS schools met or exceeded growth, including 92 percent of high schools. Meeting growth means students achieved at least one year’s worth of learning in one year’s time. When students achieve more than one year of learning, they have exceeded growth. The new data shows schools and students are moving in the right direction.

Across the state, just nine schools had proficiency scores above 90 percent. GCS took three of those nine spots: Brown Summit Middle, The Early College at Guilford and The STEM Early College at N.C. A&T.

“We appreciate the hard work and achievement our students and teachers showed under the old standards,” said Green. “Given enough time and support, I know they will do well under these new, more challenging standards.”

North Carolina has experienced decreases in proficiency levels when new standards have been set. In 2006, math scores dropped 24.2 percent with the new standards and in 2008, reading dropped 30.4 percent in the first year of the new reading standards.

Families will receive their individual student reports later this month. These most recent scores will not affect students’ current placement or grades. Click here to access the state data. GCS data is available at www.gcsnc.com/2013data.

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