Test scores low, as expected

Nov. 07, 2013 @ 10:11 PM

As expected, the results of state standardized testing released Thursday showed fewer Durham Public Schools students passing than in recent years.

Overall, the proficiency rate for Durham students was 34 percent, with Fayetteville Street Elementary School posting a proficiency rating of 10.3 percent, the lowest in the district.

“Common Core and other new state standards radically changed the way our teachers teach and our students learn,” DPS Superintendent Eric J. Becoats said in a statement. “We significantly raised the bar, and now we have a new baseline from which to grow.”

The statewide passing rate for the state was 44 percent for standardized end-of-grade tests in reading and math in third through eighth grade, science tests for fifth and eighth graders and end-of-course tests in three high school subjects.

The proficiency rate for students in neighboring Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools was 68.5 percent and in Wake County, 55.8 percent.

On the positive side of the new data for Durham was Durham School of the Arts.

Students there scored a proficiency rating of 59.4 percent, leading eight DPS schools with proficiency ratings above 50 percent.

The others were Pearsontown Elementary at 59.2, J.D. Clement Early College High School at 56.9, Mangum Elementary at 54.8, Easley Elementary at 54.4, Morehead Montessori at 54 percent, Forest View Elementary at 51.3 and Little River Elementary at 50.6.

DPS officials said it will be at least two weeks before individual students’ scores are mailed to parents.   

Becoats and other school officials have spent several months preparing parents and others in the community for the dramatic drop in scores, warning that the school system could see a 30 percent to 40 percent decrease in scores over the previous year’s scores.

They have noted that two other states – New York and Kentucky – saw similar decreases in test scores when they adopted the tougher standards. 

Officials have also said that a comparison to previous test scores is not an “apple-to-apple” comparison because the tests and standards have changed. 

Still, they insist that students are learning and teachers are teaching and that both will rise to meet the challenges of the new rigorous curriculum and standards.

 “Students are not losing ground,” said school board chairwoman Heidi Carter. “They’re simply being challenged at higher levels.”

She noted that the new proficiency standards are aimed at preparing students for college and careers instead of the next grade level like past tests.

Carter expressed concern about data showing a widening of the achievement gap between black and white students under the tougher standards.

She said the district will have to work harder to mitigate the social and economic disadvantages that lead to such disparities.

At Fayetteville Street Elementary Thursday morning, second- year Principal Arrica DuBose said she is confident the school’s scores will improve, noting the hiring of new teachers with experience teaching a curriculum based on common core.    

But she said the 10.3 proficiency rate does not define the school or tell the whole story about what is happening at Fayetteville Street.

 “Scores are just one component of what a school can offer,” DuBose said while taking a reporter on a tour of several classrooms at the school. “We don’t want our scores to be low, but we know what we’re doing is the right thing to do for kids.”

Becoats said his administration will work with DuBose and her staff to figure out and to correct whatever caused students to perform poorly.

He said moving the scores in the right direction throughout the district will take new strategies to help students and teachers more quickly adapt to the new standards.

Becoats said he might propose such smaller class sizes, extending the school day or even Saturday school.

In spite of the struggles to rise to the new standards, the data released Thursday show that 77 percent of DPS schools met of exceeded academic growth expecations in 2012-13

Chapel Hill

Only Carrboro and Frank Porter Graham elementary schools in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools dipped below 60 percent.

The proficiency ratings at those two schools were 54.7 percent and 53.8 percent, respectively.

The proficiency rating at six of the district’s 17 schools rose above 70 percent.

Those schools are Seawell, Scroggs, Rashkis and Glennwood elementary schools, Smith Middle School and East Chapel Hill High School.  

“This means our students will be competitive with students throughout the United States and with their peers from other countries,” said CHCCS. “More importantly, all students will be able to read at a college level with sufficient content.”

The district met 96.6 percent of the 560 federal goals and 94.6 percent of the 947 state goals.

Of 27 achievement goals missed, 20 were for economically disadvantaged students.

We recognized there is one group that stands out in the data, one group whose academic needs are not being met,” Superintendent Thomas A. Forcella said. “Our district’s greatest challenge is bringing up the proficiency levels of our economically disadvantaged students.”