Board quiet on test scores

pseligson@newsobserver.comNovember 18, 2013 

At their meeting last week, Johnston school board members had little to say about the county’s latest end-of-grade test scores, which fell drastically from the year before.

Rodney Peterson, chief academic officer, presented the new scores to the board. In one measure, 58.6 percent of Johnston schools did not meet expectations for academic growth last school year. Statewide, just 28.7 percent of schools failed to meet expectations for growth.

As announced earlier, just 43.3 percent of Johnston County’s students scored at or above grade level on the new tests. Statewide, 44.7 percent of students scored at or above grade level.

“Students haven’t learned less,” Peterson said. Instead, the state increased testing rigor in line with the new curriculum, and Johnston County Schools expected a drop, he said.

At the board’s October meeting, Superintendent Ed Croom had prepared school leaders for low scores. “There is an absolutely ton of information,” he said, “and it’s all different than it used to be.”

In addition to measuring passing rates, the state also determined which schools met expectations for academic growth and which did not. Most Johnston schools did not.

“Part of our mission is make sure some of these not-met (schools) turn into mets and the ones that are already mets stay that way,” Croom said.

The new testing also looks at student performance by race and background. “We are slightly below the state mean in some of these areas, but we are also at or above the state mean in some of these areas,” Peterson said.

Board member Peggy Smith expressed a number of concerns, including whether teachers still have time to teach while devoting some much time to test preparation. Peterson said teachers devote about 30 percent of their class time to testing.

Smith was concerned also about morale. “ I don’t want this data to let teachers think we think less of them,” she said.

Other business

To comply with a new state law, the school board amended its policy on handguns on school grounds. Under the change, non-students with concealed-carry permits can bring a handgun onto school property as long as the gun remains in a compartment of their locked vehicle or in a locked container attached to their vehicle.

To cover increased costs, the school board raised the price of driver’s education from $45 to $55. That doesn’t include the $25 charge for the Alive @ 25 Defensive Driving Course. The board also added a requirement about driver’s ed instructors. They can no longer teach the course if they are convicted of a moving violation that suspends or revokes their driver’s license.

Finally last week, the board heard an update on school counselors. Thanks to recent state legislation, guidance counselors no longer have to coordinate school testing. That responsibility now falls to assistant principals. Instead, guidance counselors are now required to spend 80 percent of their time directly with students.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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