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Area schools get good marks for test scores

Jennifer Sprouse • Aug 15, 2013 at 11:06 AM

As area schools have just started diving into the 2013-14 school year curriculum, test scores for the 2012-13 school year are back in for review and evaluation.

Washington County Schools released their districtwide test scores for the system Wednesday, with significant increases in subjects such as reading and mathematics.

According to Washington County Director of Schools Ron Dykes, the system received a score of level 5 in both literacy and numeracy, which is the highest possible score.

He said the improvements on the Algebra I End of Course test is more than 8 percent higher than the state scores.

“I was glad that in most all areas that we were at or certainly above the state,” Dykes said. “One of the things I’m most proud of is ... our students’ achievement rate in Algebra I. We had over a 13 percent gain.”

According to the release, Washington County elementary schools showed an increase in the number of students scoring proficient and advanced in English Language Arts and mathematics, which included improvements in third- through eighth-grade reading scores, and seventh-grade mathematics.

“I’m very proud of our graduation rate at almost 94 percent. That’s ... sort of a historic high for us,” Dykes said. “It has risen from ... about the mid-80s, around 85-86 percent ... six or seven years ago. It’s risen to what it is today and has been a stair-step effect and so we’re very proud of that increase. We made a concerted effort by the use of credit recovery program, graduation coaches and simply using various response intervention techniques to ensure these children graduate.”

He said the high test scores in the county can be attributed to not only teacher engagement, but student performance and participation.

“We have implemented a higher level of staff development and a more intense staff development,” Dykes said. “We are better instructors today because of our differentiation. We use differentiated instruction in the classroom.”

He said the differentiated instruction includes weekly formative assessments that teachers can use to gauge the achievement of a student at any point throughout the school year.

Dykes said each teacher in the system is evaluated by administrators four times each school year and said he feels those evaluations have increased teacher performance and interaction with students.

“Administrators are providing excellent feedback in instructional techniques. They’re offering any suggestions for improvement,” he said. “Teachers are collaborating. We are engaged in what’s called PLCs –– professional learning communities.”

He said the PLCs are where teachers in the same grade level meet to talk about instruction and when to start teaching a certain subject.

“The PLCs ... have made a real difference in ... just fine tuning the instruction. I’m extremely pleased, proud of their efforts,” Dykes said. “A lot of the credit had to go to the children themselves, the students, and that they are applying themselves and they are engaging. Children seem to be enjoying the learning process and hopefully this is just another stage in becoming lifelong learners.”

He said the school system will continue to work on narrowing the achievement gap between students with disabilities and their peers in the 2013-14 school year, which could include trying to incorporate more students with disabilities into regular classrooms, with the added assistance of the school’s special-education teachers.

Dykes said other goals of the 2013-14 school year will include implementing even more staff development.

“We have monthly staff development set aside as the year continues,” he said. “We had hundreds of our teachers involved in (Common Core State Standards) training this summer. That will continue. We’re fully implementing Common Core in this system.”

“If we can continue to obtain adequate resources, our teachers will get this job done. They simply are ... quite exceptional and I couldn’t be prouder of them as professionals,” Dykes said.

Johnson City schools also received high marks, as they met or exceeded all of the 2012-13 school year goals.

A Johnson City Schools news release said grades 3-8 had increased scores in reading and language arts and math.

Third-grade students saw improvements with reading and language-arts scores, scoring 66.7 percent proficient and advanced, which is a 1.5 percent increase over 2012 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program scores, the release said.

End of Course scores for grades 9-12 showed increases in English I, English III and Algebra II. All three subjects, including English II and Algebra I, also had percentage scores that exceeded the state’s proficient and advanced scores.

According to the news release, Science Hill High School also had a graduation rate of 91.8 percent, which is above the state’s graduation goal of 90 percent.

There was good news in another area city, as Elizabethton City Schools was one of five school systems recognized last week by the state as achieving exemplary status. Bells City Schools, Bradford Special School District, Perry County and Stewart County were the other four systems.

The state said Elizabethton and the other four districts “raised proficiency levels on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests, made substantial progress in closing gaps between groups of students and ensured improvement for racial minorities as well as students with disabilities, limited English proficiency and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Eddie Pless, director of testing, data, and early learning services, said the school system did well in both achievement and in gap closures. He said the results are a reflection on the teachers and students.

“We live in a good community, with high expectations,” Pless said. “We have teachers and students who are extremely hard working.”

He said the system has placed many aids to help focus all the hard work, including coaches and interventionists, and training teachers to use data.

“It was a very productive year and we met nearly all our annual management objectives,” Pless said.

Jeri Beth Nave, director of federal projects and testing for the Carter County School System, said the four high schools had a lot of growth, especially in algebra.

“We dropped a tiny bit in English 2,” Nave said. The schools continue to do well in history and social science.

At the elementary levels (grades 3-8), Nave said the system continued to see a lot of growth in math, even though the system remains below the state average in the subject. She said Carter County’s growth in its math scores is outpacing the state average.

She said math will continue to be a focus because the subject remains below the state average. Another focus will be on reading and language arts. While there has been growth in math scores, Nave said the system has not shown growth in reading.

On accountability measures, Nave said the system is continuing to work on closing the gaps between the total student body and students with disabilities and Hispanic students.

Elizabethton Bureau Chief

John Thompson contributed to this report.

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