Last updated: August 27. 2014 5:54PM - 807 Views
By April Jaynes ajaynes@civitasmedia.com

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POINT PLEASANT — A variety of 2014 test scores for various grades were presented from the curriculum department, inciting discussion about how the district can bring up the declining numbers.

Georgia Thorton, administrative assistant to the superintendent/curriculum and instruction, presented the board during a recent meeting of the Mason County Schools Board of Education with district-wide in-class and DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Learning Skills) data, West Test 2 data, ACT composite scores, GPA charts and AP scores, comparing them with 2013 data.

“As the schools come through, they will talk to you about their individual data. They just got it so they’re still breaking it down,” she said.

Thorton first compared 2013 and 2014 kindergarten and first-grade in-class and DIBELS data. DIBELS data is calculated via a series of tests that assess early childhood literacy for grades K-6.

For the kindergarten and first-grade DIBELS data, numbers showed a decline between 2013 and 2014.

“As you can see, the red is kind of our negative piece. This is where we dropped off. I don’t know what happened, and we need to investigate what happened from the end of the year of kindergarten, to the end of the year of first grade. So those are some questions that the curriculum department is looking at right now,” Thorton said. “Because we don’t have West Test scores or anything else for K-2, this is what we use to see where our students are at.”

The West Test 2 data did show an overall increase in some grades in reading and language arts.

“When you take a look at reading and language arts, we had great gains in fifth and sixth grade,” Thorton said. “Each school saw an increase; Roosevelt is still moving kids at 17 percent. They were a reward school last year. They’re still moving kids. Ashton (Elementary School) moved 8 percent, Leon (Elementary School) 2.5 percent, the (Point Pleasant) Intermediate School 20 percent, Beale (Elemenatry School) 20 percent and New Haven Elementary School 28 percent. So those are some significant bright spots and that’s why you see the 11 percent jump in our schools.”

Higher grades, however saw a decline in reading and language arts.

“Now if you look at grades 10 and 11, they moved the other way. They went down a little. We saw significant drops at Wahama (High School) at a 16 percent drop, Point Pleasant (Jr./Sr. High School) at 12 percent and Hannan (High School) at 4 (percent),” Thorton said.

Thorton also discussed the importance of goal setting for the schools’ test scores.

“Now I have to remind you of what I told you the last time I spoke to you about what the new way of looking at data is, that the small gains are not going to be considered,” she said. “We’re looking at significant gains. So therefore, when your schools come to talk to you, they’re going to talk to you about 15 and 20 percent goals. They made goals at 3 percent, and you know that if you’re going to just make a 3 percent goal — well then, what are you going to get? Maybe a percent and a half or you drop. If you shoot for 15 percent or 20 percent, then, you know, you’re going to move yourself a little bit further along. So we have to start thinking in that manner.”

One of the biggest upcoming changes in the Office of Education Performance Audits (OEPA) evaluation process is the change in designations that schools individually receive, which Thorton discussed during a board meeting in late July. The current designations are Success Schools, Transition Schools, Focus Schools, Support Schools and Priority Schools. The new designations to be implemented in the 2014/2015 evaluations are: A — Distinctive Student Proficiency; B — Commendable Student Proficiency; C — Acceptable Student Proficiency; D — Unacceptable Student Proficiency; and F — Lowest Student Proficiency.

Thorton also discussed ACT composite score data with the board.

“Then I have the ACT. This is the composite — it was embargoed until last Wednesday. This is your composite ACT scores from 2010 all the way to 2014. You can see that we’re boosting the amount of students that are taking the ACT, but look at the ACT composite scores. You know that to get a college scholarship you have to be well in the 20s in order to get that, and this is what our students are really doing across the district,” she said.

ACT scores were another area of concern to Thorton, as the chart of GPA’s she presented the board with did not seem to correlate with the test results, causing frustration among some students in the top of their class.

“When you have composites like this, the first thing we ask for is, ‘How many kids are making 3.0 and above in your schools?’ And as you can look, we have quite a few here,” she said. “If you look at the amount of students that are making a 3.0 and above, those students should be doing much better on the ACT, our composite scores. So our GPAs — I mean we’re putting out a product here. Which is true? Is it the GPA they leave us with? Or is it really what they can do on the ACT?

“Because I’ll tell you, I sat with a bright bunch of kids here at Point Pleasant High School —nine of them, in an AP language arts class — frustrated. They were at the top of the class,” Thorton continued. “They had a 32 or 33 on the composite in language arts on their ACT and math was 16. They had scholarships on the line, and they said, ‘What do we do? I can’t get my math up there.’ We put some things in place to help them, but what are we selling them when we’re giving them all these huge GPAs and we’re giving them extra credit and then they don’t know what they’re talking about when they go to take the ACT? If we were a business, the Better Business Bureau would probably up calls on us.”

Board member Paul Sayre asked if anyone has ever been able to compare ACT tests to West Test 2 and other achievement tests.

“We may be testing to bring up our test scores for achievement, but we may be missing a lot of the things that the ACT is expecting our students to learn for college. That’s just a thought. I don’t know that,” Sayre said.

Thorton said she was not sure if research comparing the tests had been conducted, but that she would look into the matter.

President Greg Fowler asked if high school was where students’ scores were struggling the most.

“Are we dropping the ball when they get to high school?” he said.

Thorton said she felt both elementary and high schools needed improvement.

“I don’t know that we’re dropping it, if you look at that — I mean — I’m not impressed with all of our elementary schools,” she said. “Our third grades across the board were really, really tough, and that’s why the foundation schools in K, 1 and 2 that the superintendent often talks about is so important. … I don’t know that we’re dropping the ball at the secondary anymore than we are at the elementary school.”

Thorton also expressed concern about the AP score data, citing one AP class at Wahama with 16 students in which 11 students took the test and none passed.

“We are increasing, in some respects, the amount of students taking the (AP) class and also taking the (AP) test. One of the perks we got this year was some money from the state in order to help pay for that test. So we were talking today and we think that’s what really boosted the taking of the test. Now the more kids that take it, the more we expect to pass, but sadly that is not the case,” she said.

Thorton also said AP classes tend to have smaller enrollment, which ideally should make it easier for teachers to help students improve.

“These are some tough conversations to have — what’s going on there,” she said. “I don’t have an answer for you, but that’s something I’m going to talk to the principal’s about.”

Superintendent Suzanne Dickens said the district has come a long way overall throughout the years and that the situation is “not all doom and gloom.”

“We moved a long way. Now we’re up there playing with the big boys. It’s harder to move the higher up you get. I mean, the competition is stiff,” she said. “The higher you get, the harder it is for growth. It’s easier when you’re at the bottom.”

OEPA school designations will be determined sometime in October, Thorton said.

“As we get our school designations — and they will be sometime in October — then I’ll come back to you with that and hopefully that will be some good news,” Thorton said.

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