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NC Test Scores Plummet, But Don't Compare To Past Years

Answer sheet for scanned test. align=left
Answer sheet for scanned test. align=left

Parents, teachers, and students may be in for a rude awakening next month when they get the scores of standardized tests taken at the end of last year.  Less than half of North Carolina students were deemed proficient in most subjects.  But that doesn’t mean students are necessarily performing any worse.    

North Carolina students took re-tooled standardized tests at the end of last year.  They’re designed to assess students based on more rigorous standards under the Common Core.  For example, some 8th grade math is now being taught in 6th grade. 

Districts expected the scores to be low and they are.  Take 4th grade reading.  Only 45 percent of fourth-graders are deemed proficient.  The biggest drop is in 8th grade math.  Under the new system only 35 percent of kids are deemed proficient.  In 2012, 80 percent were. 

The state board of education had the option of softening the blow by lowering what’s needed to get a score of three, which means you’re proficient.  The board would do that, planning on raising the bar for this year’s results. 

“It’s kind of easing into those higher expectations,” Tammy Howard told the state board of education today.  She’s in charge of the state’s testing program.    

But the state board of education decided against that option. 

“This is the price of sorts that is paid to lift the standards and the level of rigor that exists under the premise that kids are well-served and better prepared at the point of 12th grade when they graduate,” said board member John Tate from Charlotte.    

Last month, a couple board members expressed concerns about jumping right away to the higher bar.  Karyn Dickerson is a teacher advisor to the board.  She worried that such low scores would discourage students and teachers. 

“I love high standards.  I hold my students to high standards,” said Dickerson.  “I will say with the new standards with my English II inclusion students last year, I saw more growth in them than I’ve ever seen.  But looking at these results, my heart dropped.  It dropped for teachers and it dropped for my students.” 

The state expects to release district and school test scores November 7th.

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.