State toughens student standards

Oct. 22, 2013 @ 05:30 PM

This year's test results, when released, will be lower than results parents and districts have seen in the past. 

The tests are different and measure new content standards. North Carolina's revised Standard Course of Study was implemented for the first time in 2012-13. The assessments reflected in the new standards were given to students for the first time in the 2012-13 school year, according to a statement from the North Carolina Department of Instruction.

Based on NC Department of Public Instruction analyses, schools and parents will see drops as high as 30 to 40 percentage points in terms of the percentage of students scoring proficient or above. For students, these scores will not affect their grades or their current placement. The 2012-13 school year is considered a transition or baseline year for these new assessments and the state's new accountability model.

Marce Savage, a Union County Public Schools Board of Education and State Board of Education member, said when they received the scores, she was worried about teacher morale, which is already low, in the state. She opted to hold the scores from September for a month, while they studied the scores and talked to superintendents. 

She said the general attitude of the superintendents was to "rip off" the band-aid. The scores will be reported, bu there will be no state-imposed consequences until next year and teachers can take the best two out of three years for their evaluations. 

North Carolina students now have a higher proficiency standard to meet on the state's end-of-grade and end-of-course tests. New standards today were approved by the State Board of Education to bring expectations for student performance in line with current career and college expectations.

County-by-county breakdowns will be released in November. Savage said she is not worried about Union County's scores because they began implementing the Common Core Curriculum earlier than other districts. She said that each of the 115 districts implemented the newer standards differently. 

"The test results from last year will give us a baseline measurement for our students as we move forward," State Superintendent June Atkinson said in a statement. "We fully expect proficiency levels to steadily increase as teachers and students acclimate to the new content standards and expectations. Other states, most notably Kentucky and New York, have had the same experience in raising standards and have seen a bounce back in subsequent years."

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey noted that it is important for North Carolinians to have assessments that give everyone a clear picture of how well students are prepared for today's jobs and careers. "It is important for us to stand behind our students and teachers," he said. "We know that, with our support, they will rise to meet these new expectations."

"North Carolina students didn't lose ground in their learning last year, but they are being measured against a higher standard with more rigorous expectations for applying knowledge and skills to real-world problems," Atkinson said. "In order for our students to be competitive upon graduation, we have an obligation to expect more from them."