Higher Standards Yield Lower Scores
Special Report - November 10, 2008
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) released a report November 6 showing an increase in the number of schools that did not meet education standards last year. The ABCs of Public Instruction focuses on strong accountability, teaching the basics, and maximizing local control in North Carolina schools. It compares students’ academic performance growth from year to year with the typical growth in prior years across the state, based on individual scores. Growth from year to year, a school’s performance composite (defined as the percentage of student test scores that are at or above grade level proficiency) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) contribute to a school’s ABC score. The 2007-2008 ABCs/AYP report adds the recently released new third through eighth grade reading proficiency test scores to the math and reading scores made available this summer. Of North Carolina’s 2,472 schools that were evaluated using the ABC standards, 101 are considered low performing with less than 50 percent of their students reaching at least Achievement Level III. Only 54.8 percent of schools met or exceeded expected growth with at least 60 percent of their students' scores at or above Achievement Level III.
The federal No Child Left Behind law requires AYP to provide a measuring stick for students, parents, teachers, and administrators in determining whether their school is meeting certain math and reading benchmarks. Scores for grades three through eight are calculated from attendance and reading and math scores. High school scores factor in English I, grade 10 writing, and Algebra I scores plus four-year graduation rates. AYP measures subgroups of students against a fixed performance standard for all students and requires all subgroups in a school to meet or pass those standards. Nearly 70 percent of schools, including traditional public, charter, and alternative schools, did not meet this year’s AYP targets. Last year, 45 percent of North Carolina public schools met the federal standards. An additional sixty schools are awaiting special review to determine their AYP statuses after providing insufficient data for the calculations. A mere 1.2 percent, 29 schools, met the standards for both ABC and AYP. Last year, the state had 84 of these Honor Schools of Excellence.
The percentage of students reading at proficiency in middle school was as much as 16 percentage points lower than the same group’s math proficiency. A full 47 percent of elementary and middle school students failed to pass both their reading and math assessments, more than a 7 percent increase from last year. In a third of all state schools more than 40 percent of the students, double last year’s number, failed.
NCDPI and the State School Board attribute the disappointing results to higher standards implemented this year. Last year, NCDPI helped to train and place 200 literacy coaches in middle schools across the state in an effort to boost proficiency scores. This school year, NCDPI is providing direct support to 165 schools and 6 districts to help increase student achievement.
“North Carolina public schools continually fail to meet basic proficiency standards in important core subjects like math and reading,” said Brittany Farrell, research associate for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “With over half of North Carolina’s next generation being failed in their education, it is time for schools to focus more on successfully teaching the basics ¬ reading, writing, and math and less time wasted on frivolous electives and projects.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.