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School Districts Get A Closer Look At New Test Results

Duncan McFadyen

The North Carolina Department of Education Thursday released the school-by-school results of last year’s end of grade and end of class tests. It was the first year for more rigorous exams that test for national Common Core standards. WFAE’s Duncan McFadyen gives All Things Considered host Mark Rumsey a breakdown of the numbers.

MR: Duncan, we learned a few months ago that the statewide proficiency rates dropped by anywhere from 25 to 40 percent because of the new standards. How did students fare in the Charlotte region?

DM: In CMS, scores were down by around 30 points. In 3rd through 8th grades, CMS students fell from about 67 percent proficient to about 35. High schoolers’ proficiency went from about 80 to just over 46 percent. The overall average for the district was 47 percent. But, CMS scores were higher than the state average across the board. Among CMS high schools, Ardrey Kell had the highest average, over 80 percent. West Charlotte was lowest with about 17 percent proficiency.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Gaston County Schools’ average was lower than CMS and the state average, at about 39 percent. Cabarrus County Schools was slightly higher, at 50 percent. And Union County schools had the second-highest proficiency rate in North Carolina: 59 percent.

MR: So, what makes these new tests so different?

DM: Well, the new tests are designed to measure how well students apply information, not just whether or not they’ve memorized it. For example, let’s looks at the 5th grade reading test. In 2012, it asked students to read a half-page story and answer a basic question about the information in the story. In the new test, the story was three pages long, and the students were asked to infer something from the story’s events.

MR: How might will these new test scores translate into changes in classroom teaching?

DM: CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison says schools will be looking for any weak spots in the results.

MORRISON: What’s important is that students don’t go into a test being unprepared; that they’re ready for the level of rigor, that the standards that are going to be on the test have been covered and taught well in the classroom.

DM: So, there may be some mid-stream changes to teachers’ lesson plans. For high-schoolers, though, end-of-course tests usually make up 25 percent of their grades. These scores obviously came back too late to include in grades this time, but CMS plans to continue this policy.

MR: When will students and parents be able to see their individual scores from the tests?

DM: It’s going to take about a month, but there’s not an exact date yet. In the meantime, you can look up how your student's school performed at ncaccountabilitymodel.org.