New test standards to create new challenges for schools
North Carolina students now have a higher proficiency standard to meet on the state’s end-of-grade and end-of-course tests. This week new standards were approved by the State Board of Education to bring expectations for student performance in line with current career and college expectations.
When the 2012-2013 test results are provided to parents, schools and districts in November, results will be much lower than North Carolina has seen for a number of years. Local school and district scores will be released on Nov. 7, at the State Board of Education’s monthly meeting in Raleigh.
State Superintendent June Atkinson said the test results from last year will give the state a baseline measurement for students as we move forward.
“We fully expect proficiency levels to steadily increase as teachers and students acclimate to the new content standards and expectations,” Atkinson said. “Other states, most notably Kentucky and New York, have had the same experience in raising standards and have seen a bounce back in subsequent years.”
State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey noted that it is important for North Carolinians to have assessments that give everyone a clear picture of how well students are prepared for today’s jobs and careers.
The process of establishing cut scores on each end-of-grade test came after weeks of analysis and work with classroom teachers to identify standard levels. The goal is to sharpen the focus on what students need to be successful after high school graduation. In the past, North Carolina’s achievement levels were more focused on what students needed to be successful at the next grade level.
Based on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction analyses, schools and parents will see drops as high as 30 to 40 percentage points in terms of the percentage of students scoring proficient or above. For students, these scores will not affect their grades or their current placement. The 2012-2013 school year is considered a transition or baseline year for these new assessments and the state’s new accountability model.
“North Carolina students didn’t lose ground in their learning last year, but they are being measured against a higher standard with more rigorous expectations for applying knowledge and skills to real-world problems,” Atkinson said.
The 2012-2013 assessment results are not comparable to prior years’ scores. The tests are different and measure new content standards. North Carolina’s revised Standard Course of Study was implemented for the first time in 2012-2013. The assessments reflected in the new standards were given to students for the first time last school year.
North Carolina students take state assessments in English Language Arts and mathematics in grades third through eighth; science end-of-grade assessments in grades fifth and eighth; and three high school courses — Algebra I/Math I; Biology and English II.
Johnny Hunt is the superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County.
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