Parents across the state may be scratching their heads as they attempt to decipher this year’s state-wide testing scores for students and schools from elementary through high school.
The testing process has undergone some major changes, including the information students are tested on, items that contribute to the school’s score, and even the scoring scale itself.
Parents can expect to see something very different from what they are used to, and should not necessarily be alarmed if what they see does not look good, according to Superintendent of Grayson County Schools, Barry Anderson, who hosted a press conference in preparation for the public release of the scores on Friday, November 2.
These changes, which have even those in school administration scrambling for a deeper understanding of the new terms and calculations, have come as a result of the first year of the ‘Unbridled Learning’ program across the state.
The program’s goal is to better prepare students for college and/or careers, and involves “raising the bar,” for both students and schools, according to Anderson, who said, “We’ve identified what we think is important for our kids to learn, and we’ve raised the standard.”
Such significant changes cannot be made overnight, however, and this year’s testing scores may reflect the gap between the implementation of the new standards and teachers actually having the opportunity to make curriculum adjustments and teach to these standards.
Another item that is hugely effecting scores this year is the inclusion of four new categories in addition to achievement tests which contribute to the school’s overall score.
The ‘Gap’ category “measures the achievement of students in minority, low-income, special needs and non-native English categories,” according to a press release from Grayson County Schools. This measurement was applied to elementary, middle and high schools this year.
The ‘Growth’ category uses statistical information to estimate the growth of individual students from year to year, and is a measure used for elementary, middle and high school scoring as well.
For middle and high schools, the ‘College/Career Readiness’ category is added into the equation, and is based on scoring from standardized tests such as the ACT, EXPLORE, or PLAN tests among others.
High schools also have ‘Graduation Rate’ added in as another number going toward their overall score.
To make matters even more confusing, each category contributes a particular percentage toward the final score, and those percentages vary between elementary, middle and high schools.
Scores for elementary schools are 30 percent Achievement, 30 percent Gap and a whopping 40 percent Growth.
Middle school scores are made up of 28 percent Achievement, 28 percent Gap, 28 percent Growth, and 16 percent College/Career Readiness.
Each of the five categories for high school scoring - Achievement, Gap, Growth, College/Career Readiness, and Graduation Rate - contribute 20 percent to the school’s overall score.
District Assesment Coordinator Carla Purcell cautioned that even once we have a good handle on the way scoring was handled this year, we are not quite in the clear because over the next few of years even more changes in the system will be encountered.
Next year, she said, science will be brought into the testing, a subject which has previously not been a part of the achievement tests.
She expects the year after that to hold some new evaluation components as well, and said “It’s all going to evolve. It’s going to be a learning game for the next few years.”