Preliminary data shows declines in math scores

Published 8:08 am Wednesday, June 20, 2007

By Staff
Board approves personnel shuffle
Staff Writer
Beaufort County students aren’t making the grade in math.
High school students were faced with new tests in the school year that just ended, which showed dramatic dips at some schools. At the elementary- and middle-school levels, there is systemwide improvement compared to the previous school year, but there’s still work to be done.
According to preliminary data presented to the Beaufort County Board of Education on Monday, more students in the third through eighth grades tested proficient in math during the school year that just ended than they did in the previous school year at all grade levels except for third grade.
Third-grade proficiency dropped 1.2 percentage points. The school with the biggest dip for third-graders in math proficiency was S.W. Snowden Elementary School in Aurora. Data shows a three-year decline in math scores for Snowden’s third-graders. Last year, 38.5 percent of the third-graders at Snowden tested proficient. This year, that percentage dropped to 18.5 percent.
In the fall, the elementary and middle schools in Aurora will be consolidated and the current middle school campus will be a grades K-8 elementary facility.
Bath Elementary School, also a K-8 school, has traditionally been one of the county’s top performing schools.
In that same northeast corner of the county, the K-8 Northeast Elementary School has struggled consistently to meet the federal Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks.
Northeast is considered a school in need of improvement because it failed in two consecutive years to meet all target goals required under President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. To shed the “needs improvement” label, the school must meet all benchmarks for two years.
Superintendent Jeff Moss said Monday, based on the preliminary data, Northeast likely will not meet AYP this year.
He said the entire system struggled with its exceptional children meeting the same standard as the student body at large in math and reading.
The theory of the federal No Child Left Behind Act is that all students will be performing at grade level by the 2013-2014 school year.
Moss presented the data Monday, noting that all results are unofficial until certified by the state.
Students’ proficiency on algebra test scores dropped by nearly 30 percentage points.
The largest plummet was at Washington High School, which saw an increase in achievement from 68.1 percent to 83.8 percent from the 2004-2005 school year to 2005-2006.
This year’s results show 44.3 percent of Washington’s algebra students tested proficient on end-of-course tests. That’s a decrease of nearly 40 percent.
Board member William Warren asked for an explanation of that downward spike.
Moss said that last year not all algebra students were tested because of the program then-principal Steve Hagen had adopted for the high school.
Under the progressive math program, a course is divided into six-week modules. Students do not move on to the next module until they have mastered the level they’re on, Moss said. The only students who take the end-of-course test are those who finished the last six weeks, Moss said.
Not only did that boost scores last year, Moss said, it also meant a large student population had to retake algebra. This year, the progressive math program was not implemented.
Reading test scores were up at all elementary and middle school levels except for the third and eighth grades, where the school system trended down slightly.
Overall, the system’s grades 3-8 students are 80 percent to 90 percent proficient in reading.
At the high school level, county scores dropped on the end-of-course English test from 79.3 percent proficiency last year to 61.5 percent this year.
Again, Moss noted that a new test was administered.
The General Assembly and State Board of Education have mandated state tests be “renormed” to more closely reflect what is nationally considered grade-level proficiency.
Moss said it typically takes teachers and educators a few years to adjust to the new standards and requirements to “figure out what the state wants.”
In other business Monday, the school board shuffled some of the school principals to central office positions and gave Moss the go-ahead to fill other vacancies with current employees.
Nicole Howard, principal at Northeast Elementary School, will now be the system’s director of student services in the central office.
Elizabeth Hodges, principal at John Small School, was transferred to the vacant director of exceptional children curriculum position in central services.
Board Chairman Robert Belcher noted that these were voluntary transfers.
Assistant Principal Lisa Tate was named principal at John Small Elementary School and awarded a two-year contract. The board did not act on naming a new assistant principal at John Small or a new Northeast principal; and there’s still a vacancy for principal at Eastern Elementary in Washington.
Following the personnel transfers, Vice-Chairman F. Mac Hodges made a motion that won unanimous support to “reinforce” Moss’ authority to transfer current personnel into vacant positions throughout the school system at the superintendent’s discretion.