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Test scores drop in three subjects

By Staff
Moss says declines linked to new tests
By CHRISTINA HALE
Staff Writer
Beaufort County high-school students’ proficiency scores for the 2006-2007 school year dropped significantly, according to preliminary end-of-year test scores.
Jeffrey Moss, Beaufort County Schools superintendent, presented those scores to the Beaufort County Board of Education on Monday night. Moss said test results are not official until the state Board of Education accepts them.
In the previous two school years, Moss said, county schools performed well in Algebra, but all schools’ performance levels in Algebra dropped in the just-completed school year.
New tests for English 1, Algebra I, Algebra II and geometry were administered during the 2006-2007 school year, Moss said. In Algebra I, Beaufort County students went from an 85.3-percent proficiency ranking in 2005-2006 to 58.3 percent in 2006-2007. In Algebra II, the proficiency ranking dropped from 83.5 percent to 60.2 percent. Students’ proficiency ranking in English I dropped from 79.3 percent to 61.5 percent.
In geometry, students’ proficiency ranking increased from 69.2 percent in 2005-2006 to 72.8 percent in 2006-2007. Students’ proficiency ranking for chemistry went up from 71.9 percent in 2005-2006 to 87.6 percent in the school year that ended in June.
In the proficiency ranking for biology, there was a “dramatic decrease at Washington High School,” Moss told the board. The school’s proficiency level dropped by 30 percent from 2005-2006 to the following school year. Northside High School also saw its proficiency ranking for biology fall from 82.9 percent in 2005-2006 to 57.6 percent in the most recent school year.
The General Assembly and the State Board of Education have mandated state end-of-year tests be “renormed” to more closely reflect what is considered as grade-level proficiencies at the national level, Moss said Thursday in a telephone interview .
Asked how often tests are changed, Moss said, “Every five to seven years, or when they feel the need to raise the standard.”
In writing proficiency, Beaufort County seventh-graders and 10th-graders scored below the state average for the third consecutive year.
Writing scores for seventh-graders went up slightly, going from 34.6 percent a year ago to 40.4 percent in the school year just completed. Writing scores for 10th-grade students went down from 37.6 percent a year ago to 34.3 percent in the school year that ended in June.
Math scores for Beaufort County third-graders and eighth-graders at most county schools went up slightly in 2006-2007 when compared to scores from the previous year.
In math, Snowden Elementary School third-graders saw their proficiency ranking fall from 38.5 percent to 18.5 percent. Aurora Middle School seventh-graders saw their proficiency ranking in math drop from 83.9 percent to 62.5 percent. Northeast Elementary School dropped in eighth-grade math from 57 percent to 49.3 percent.
Just one school — Aurora Middle School — made the high-growth category during the 2005-2006 school year. In the school year that just ended, five schools — Aurora Middle School, Chocowinity Primary School, Eastern Elementary School, John Cotten Tayloe Elementary School and P.S. Jones Middle School — received that distinction, Moss said. The high-growth distinction means a school improved its academic performance by at least 10 percent more than the state expected it to improve, Moss said.
In 1005-2006, Northeast Elementary School was named a school in need of improvement. For the school year that ended in June, three more schools — S.W. Snowden, Bath and John Small elementary schools — joined Northeast in that category.
Moss told the board that students have the option to transfer from these schools to other schools and the school system is required to provide them transportation to their new schools. Last year, four students transferred from Northeast Elementary School to Bath Elementary School, he said.
Although students have that option, Moss said, “I don’t anticipate many of our students leaving.”
Being named a school in need of improvement means the school failed for two consecutive years to meet all target goals required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. To be removed from that category, a school must meet all benchmarks for two years in a row. The No Child Left Behind Act calls for all students to perform at grade level by the 2013-2014 school year.
“It’s a system that is not working for all students,” he said Monday night.