DPS officials wrestle with concern over new test’s impact

Sep. 24, 2013 @ 08:08 PM

Durham Public Schools officials continued Tuesday to voice concern over the impact that they expect when school assessments based on new Common Core exams are released later this fall.

Board member Minnie Forte-Brown said at the system’s fall retreat that the proposed scoring benchmarks could prove catastrophic to the public school system.

“They’re setting us up to have a mass exodus of people from the public school system because just like we’re concerned, we look at this and you know that less than half of the students in North Carolina are proficient, I can’t leave my job but I sure as hell can get out of the public school system,” she said. “As school boards, we need to be really strong and tell them, ‘you’re setting us up.’”

At the retreat, Terri Mozingo, assistant superintendent for research and accountability, cited as an example the outcome of one cut-off point state officials are considering for judging students proficient – a crucial designation in the testing outcomes.

In the scenario she outlined, DPS might have seen nearly 63 percent of its students ranked as proficient. But under the new standards and cut-off points, that would drop to below 47 percent.

The State Board of Education delayed release of the scores, originally scheduled for early October, for a month when it reviewed those assessment impacts earlier this month. “What’s significant is when we attended the state board meeting was that the state board was really concerned about 46.65 percent,” Mozingo said. “There would be turmoil all over North Carolina because the percentage would go, in many cases, below 50 percent. This is just an example to explain what the effects might be.”

Superintendent Eric Becoats suggested that the board draft a letter to state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson and the state board outlining their concerns and issues prior to the board’s next meeting Oct. 3.

DPS has been hosting and speaking at meetings throughout the district to explain the possibility of a drastic dip in scores. Board member Leigh Bordley suggested a point she thought should be made in those meetings.

“People need to understand how arbitrary this is and that they’re setting these standards, they’re defining what passing and failing is and five different options tell me right away that there are a lot of different ways you could do it,” Bordley said. “The students are the same students from last year, it’s just that the cut scores have changed.”

Becoats, echoing comments he’s made in other forums recently, said that despite efforts to get in front of the release of the scores, “I think that when people see a number that is very, very low there’s still going to be some concern.”