7/12/11 High school test scores hold steady

High school test scores hold steady
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 7/12/11     
Reprinted with permission.

 The state of North Carolina scrapped some of its tests for high school students before the 2010-11 school year, and more will be eliminated before the 2011-12 year begins.

 But the Alamance-Burlington School System, like its counterparts throughout North Carolina, is still using end-of-course tests taken by high school students to measure academic performance in grades 9-12.

 Student performance held steady — going either up or down slightly — from 2009-10 to 2010-11. Dain Butler, the Alamance-Burlington system’s director of school improvement/accountability, said the figures could change following a review by the state, but are “very close to what our final numbers will be.”

 For every high school course in which students are tested, the percentage of students reaching or exceeding proficiency has increased since 2008-09. Re-tests — which students who didn’t pass the first time take after additional study and help — were included in state school systems’ overall test results for the first time in 2009-10.

 High school students have taken as many as 10 end-ofcourse tests the state uses to measure what they have learned in different subjects. Tests in chemistry and physics were eliminated after 2008-09, with the geometry test eliminated after 2009-10.

 Legislative action this year eliminated end-of-course tests in algebra II, U.S. history, civics and economics and physical science. That leaves end-of-course tests in algebra I, English I and biology for high school students in 2011-12.

 During discussion on the state level, both budget reasons and concerns about over-testing were mentioned during debate over getting rid of the tests. The main rationale was a desire for state testing to tie in more closely with federal standards. A bill approved by the General Assembly that became law without Gov. Beverly Perdue’s signature eliminated tests that aren’t required by No Child Left Behind standards.

 While details aren’t firm, Butler has told local school board members, the state is moving toward requiring the national ACT college entrance exams. The test is designed to measure how well students are likely to do in college. Concerns about the cost of the test during tight budget times have called into question whether and how quickly the test will be required, Butler said Monday.

 During a recent school board meeting, Butler shared information about the percentage of high school students in the system who scored at or above proficiency in 2010-11, compared to the previous two years:

  • Algebra I: 81.2 percent, compared to 80.3 in 2009-10 and 72.1 percent in 2008-09.
  • Algebra II: 85.4 percent, compared to 87.9 in 2009-10 and 69.4 percent in 2008-09.
  • Biology: 78.5 percent, compared to 83.7 percent in 2009-10 and 68.3 percent in 2008-09.
  • Civics/economics: 78.6 percent, compared to 81.6 percent in 2009-10 and 73.1 percent in 2008-09.
  • English I: 78.7 percent, compared to 79.7 percent in 2009-10 and 70.8 percent in 2008-09.
  • Physical science: 82.1 percent, compared to 81.8 percent in 2009-10 and 62.5 percent in 2008-09.
  • U.S. history: 85.8 percent, compared to 81.6 percent in 2009-10 and 67.2 percent in 2008-09.