Thursday, November 19, 2009
Schools evaluate scores
By BARRY BURLESON
Test scores improved for the most part in the Marshall County School District, but with a new state accountability formula, challenges await.
“Overall, our scores went up,” said Jerry Moore, instructional services director with the district, “but with this new formula they needed to be much higher. It’s a whole new ball game.
“Based on the scores, a couple of our schools would have finally reached a Level 3 status and one possibly 5.”
However, the old system where schools were rated by levels is history. Now schools will be given a label – such as star schools, successful and academic watch, low performing and failing. The new QDI (Quality of Distribution Index) is not all about test scores, like the AYP (Average Yearly Progress) from years past.
Instead, a school is awarded points for having children in advanced, proficient and basic but no points for minimal.
“Our problem was we virtually had no students in advanced districtwide (2 to 5 percent),” Moore said. “We focused on minimal before; now we have to get our students from proficient to advanced. We have to make sure they’re enriched academically.
“We can’t ignore the students in minimal, but we can’t put all of our focus there.”
But the Marshall County School District was not alone. He said only nine school districts statewide would be excellent under the new formula (200 QDI) and two 180 QDI.
“Everybody else was below that line,” he said.
“I can’t say the new formula is more difficult, but it’s different.”
He said the Marshall County School District, with the official results released later this month, will likely fall between 118-128 QDI. He expects two schools to be successful schools.
“Districtwide, we will probably fall in the academic watch category – dead center,” Moore said. “We will not have any in failing. Are we happy? No. We have to work doubly hard.”
And the work is well underway. Improvement is a must, Moore said, particularly in math scores at Byhalia Middle School and H.W. Byers Elementary.
“There were pretty dramatic drops there, and we’re trying to determine what happened,” Moore said.
To help, the district has initiated a program called MAP (Measures of Academic Progress). The district tested every student in September and will test them again at the end of November.
“We upped our accountability measures, and we expect to see improvement,” he said. “We basically want to know what our test scores will look like before we ever take the (official) test.”
Moore said teachers in the district really worked hard last year.
“I think we were assessing in the classroom one way and on the test the students were assessed in a different way,” he said. “If that happens, the student doesn’t have a shot on the test. We’re working on correcting that. I think what happened is we were not teaching with the proper amount of rigor.”
On a positive note, Byhalia High School, which was in school improvement last year, met AYP in math.
“We’re pleased with what they’re doing there,” Moore said. “They’re headed in the right direction.”
The school must meet AYP two years straight to get out of school improvement.
Two schools are in school improvement – year one – due to their math scores. They are Byers Elementary and Byhalia Middle. But at the same time, the two schools’ reading/language scores were up.
The district is not just breaking down the QDI by individual school but by teacher. Moore said it’s obvious a lot of teachers are instructing at a higher level, and intensive teacher training will continue.
“The bottom line is – we understand the new formula, and the measures are in place to assure the QDI goes up next year,” Moore said. “We’re confident that in most of our schools this will happen.”
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