Schools quizzing selves to prepare for new test

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 17, 2002

[10/17/02]Students and teachers in Vicksburg Warren School District tested themselves this week and last week with benchmark exams in anticipation of the state’s Curriculum Content Assessment System tests upcoming in late April or early May.

“This is our own little test to see how well we are doing, and what we need to improve and work on,” Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Donald Oakes said.

The new tests were approved by legislators in May 2000 and are taking the place of the Functional Literacy Exam as a graduation requirement. Each covers a specific subject area and students who do not meet the state minimum scores will not be allowed to graduate.

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

Associate State Superintendent for Academic Education Susan Rucker said the FLE was an eighth-grade level non-comprehensive test of basic skills.

The new state law and federal “No Child Left Behind Act,” require a comprehensive assessment, she said.

The Curriculum Content Assessment System tests follow so-called “high stakes” tests already administered in many states, including Texas and Florida. A baseline is set for a school and unless each year’s students improve, there are consequences.

“If the expectant growth for a school is not met, a school becomes a priority school,” Oakes said. “The school then really is under the state’s supervision; the long range is the state will give the school two years to improve, then the talk turns to people losing their jobs.”

Oakes said the expectant growth will be measured by taking the average of a school’s scores year to year.

“They will take the tests we took the past May and the tests we took a year before that and come up with an expectant growth for each school and each student,” Oakes said. “Accreditation is based on the expectant growth.”

Students eventually will not only not graduate without passing the tests, they won’t be promoted.

“Students in the fourth through seventh grades will have to pass the state tests to advance grades,” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Henry L. Johnson said. “It’s accountability for students’ achievement in terms of promotion or nonpromotion.”

Vicksburg Junior High Principal Ray Hume said the fact that students could get held back for failing the state tests is why the benchmark tests are so important.

“The main thing is to get students acclimated to tests that look like the state tests,” Hume said. “If you figure my biggest concern by the biggest pile of paper work on my desk then that is it.”

Oakes said under the old scoring system, which will be back into effect for the testing period, the district as a whole scored a 3, which is satisfactory statewide.

Vicksburg Warren School District Director of Information Hugh Cummings said the state has gotten people’s attention with the new testing system.

“Accreditation is real serious and we’re taking it serious,” Cummings said.

Oakes said the primary function of the benchmark tests is to let teachers and students know exactly what the students know and don’t know.

Cummings said results of the benchmark tests should be available next week.

“We’ll wait and see how we did,” he said.