Thursday, September 8, 2005

County students score highest yet on state tests

The Subject Area Testing Program scores (grades 9-12) and the Mississippi Curriculum Test scores (grades 2-8) for the Marshall County School District were released last week from state embargo, and district officials were very pleased with the results.

The Subject Area Tests (state exit exams) were the highest, across the board, that the district has posted since the inception of high stakes testing at the high school level.

“We are ecstatic with the district wide results of our high school exit exams this year,” said Jerry Moore, instructional services director for the district. “We analyze the scores each year with the realization that there is always a need for improvement and growth, but we do believe the scores from this past year’s testing demonstrate the intensive effort that was put forth by our students and our teachers.”

The district posted a 90 percent pass rate on the state Biology and History exams, an 84 percent pass rate on the Algebra I (ninth grade) and English II (10th grade) exams and a 93 percent passing rate on the English II Writing essays. Students must score a 300 or above on each exit exam in order to receive a diploma. The scores for each high school in the district were as follows: Biology (Byhalia-340, H.W. Byers-339, Potts Camp-345), Algebra (BHS -318, HWB-334, PC-347), U.S. History (BHS -353, HWB-328, PC-340) and English II (BHS-322, HWB-324, PC-326).

The scores for the Mississippi Curriculum Test were higher, district-wide, than they have been in the past three years.

“After breaking down the data, over 90 percent of our students showed a year’s growth, and the achievement levels at almost every grade at every school were higher than the previous year’s achievement level,” noted Moore. “We are proud of the improvements, but we also realize there are areas that we will need to immediately begin working on after having reviewed the data.”

The district fared well in the third and seventh grade Minimum Performance Standard pass rates as well. In the third and seventh grades, students must exceed a “cut score” set by the Mississippi Department of Education. If students do not meet that score, they must go through a remediation process and retest in January. If the student still does not meet the minimum score, they will most likely be retained the next school year.

Only nine percent of the third grade students in the district failed to meet the minimum performance standard set by the MDE and only 11 percent of seventh grade students, which was a significant improvement from the last two year’s results.

“The test results on the MCT and the SATP are very important for all districts,” said Moore, “because they figure prominently in the accreditation models for both the state and federal departments of education.”

The same performance as last year, even though acceptable, could result in lower ratings due to the fact that the bar has been raised for each area assessed in conjunction with adequate yearly progress. For example, 61 percent of third grade students had to score proficient in reading last year, whereas 71 percent had to fall into that range this year.

In English II the proficiency bar rose from 16 to 37 percent.

“Eventually the bar for each subtest will be raised to 100 percent proficiency, an admittedly unrealistic goal set by No Child Left Behind, but nevertheless, it is the goal,” said Moore.

State Accountability Reports for all school districts should be released in mid-September.

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