Area school districts brace for common core scores

Nov. 06, 2013 @ 06:51 PM

It’s the day everyone has been waiting for.

The state Department of Instruction is releasing the much-anticipated 2012-13 test scores for public consumption.

School officials across the state have already seen the results of the new North Carolina READY initiative designed to better prepare students for college and work by moving the state’s public schools toward more rigorous testing standards.

The scores released today are based on a new standard course of study, including Common Core State Standards in English and mathematics, new student assessments and a new accountability model adopted by the N.C. Board of Education.

Parents across North Carolina have already have been warned that scores have dropped dramatically.

In Durham, earlier predictions appear on target with school officials acknowledging that the district’s scores have plummeted 30 percent to 40 percent.

They note, however, that a comparison to previous scores is not an “apple-to-apple” comparison because the tests and standards have changed.

 “We are not surprised,” said DPS spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson. “We have been prepared for this for some time. We fully expected the scores to show a 30 [percent] to 40 percent drop.”

School administrators shared the testing data with members of the school board on Wednesday.

School board vice chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown said the dip in test scores does not mean students are losing ground.

“They’re still brilliant,” Forte-Brown said. “Our kids are challenged to be smarter, brighter and we will rise to that.”

She said the test scores released today will give the Durham and other school districts that have signed on to the national common core standards a new baseline from which to build.

“We have a new baseline, so you work from that,” Forte-Brown said. “That’s important for parents and our community to understand.”

Pearson said administrators have also met with principals to help them process the data and to hear their concerns and thoughts about how to move forward.

 “We’re also talking to them about what we expect from them and telling them to be up front and open with parents about the scores,” Pearson said.

School officials have been preparing the community for several months for the large dip in scores.

DPS Superintendent Eric Becoats went before the Durham City Council in September to alert the panel that he expected there to be a 20 percent to 30 percent drop in test scores.

Becoats noted at that meeting that other such changes twice contributed to reductions in statewide test scores in the 2000s. 

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS), often considered one of the top school districts in the state, is also bracing for lower test scores in the wake of the tougher standards.

 “When expectations for students learning shift sharply higher, the assessments given will be very challenging,” Diane Willwock, executive director of testing and program valuation for CHCCS, said in a statement. “Therefore, the percent of students meeting the new standards will be lower than the prior year on easier tests.”