The recent release of test scores for English and math for students in grades 3 – 8 shows that Fulton students are holding steady at a time when the state expects steady improvement.
“Our scores have flatlined,” said district administrator Betsy Conners, who is in charge of curriculum, in a presentation to the Board of Education. “You have said that again and again.”
The numbers (which you can see here) show the traditional pattern: lower scores on the English exam, a high spike in 6th grade scores on both tests, and scores that are generally below the county average.
Students are sorted into one of four categories, from level 1, for the lowest performing students, to level 4, for students who have mastered the subject matter. Schools are judged on the percentage of students who test at level 3 and 4 combined to show the size of the group that either meets or exceeds state standards.
Board of Education President Robbin Griffin said it was encouraging that most students got on track by 6th grade. Conners said that the district would focus harder on what happens in grades K – 2, where the state does not give annual assessments, as a way to pump up the results in grades 3 – 5.
It’s difficult to compare this year’s batch of numbers to the results of previous years because the state changed the way it sorts students into the four levels and because it made the tests in grades 3, 5, and 7 harder this past year.
Remove those changes, and the district (and most others) would be showing solid growth.
“It’s frustrating because we seem like we’re taking some steps backwards, but the state has made changes, too,” Conners said.
The changes in the way the state scores students imposes a cost on the district and its taxpayers. The district is forced by the state to offer academic intervention services to all students in levels 1 and 2, which is at least half of all grade 3-8 students.
And state education officials have said that they intend to keep raising standards, forcing districts to continue to aim at a moving target.
“We have miles to go before we rest,” said Conners.