3rd Grade A Concern In Fulton As Test Scores Stay Low


Teachers and administrators in Fulton will spend a lot of time as a new school year begins trying to answer this question: What’s going on in third grade?

Almost across the board, state tests find Fulton’s 3rd graders performing at lower levels than students in the higher elementary grades.

On the state’s English Language Arts exam, 69% of 3rd graders were judged to be at levels 3 or 4, which are both above the state standard. That compares with 78% of 4th graders, 86% of 5th graders and 80% of 6th graders. The district’s goals are to have 80% of students scoring above the state standard and all students at least meeting the standard.

Only Volney Elementary is performing in line with the district’s goals.  86% of its 3rd graders are above standards.  The three other elementary schools all score in the mid 60’s.

In the last four years, there has been little change in the percentages of 3rd graders at the four levels. At the same time, grades 4-6 have all seen growth in the percentages of students at levels 3 and 4, and, in the 5th and 6th grades, the most recent tests found no students scoring in the bottom level.

On the math exam, while the district exceeded its goal by having 86% of all 3rd graders above state standards, that was several points below the state average and the average for other schools in the county.

“Obviously, there’s a red flag there for us,” said the district’s executive director of instruction and assessment, Betcy Conners as she presented the numbers to the Board of Education on Tuesday.

Conners said that she and others are breaking down the data from the exams to try to identify specific reasons for the lower scores in 3rd grade. She said new reading series that have been implemented may also make a difference.

“I’ve lived through a few reading series that were supposed to fix everything,” said board member Robbin Griffin. “Is there something that we’re missing?”

Griffin said that she recalled that, on the tests that came before the new state assessments, students appeared to also catch up to standards by 5th grade.

Conners said data analysis would provide some answers, while the district’s switch to a model of prescribing individual solutions for students to get at the root causes of failure, will help with others.

The district this summer came off the state’s list of schools not meeting overall standards, said Conners. “We’re cheering that we’re off the accountability list,” she said. “But we have miles to go.”