On curriculum tests, VWSD in line with state averages

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 27, 2008

Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendant Dr. James Price is pleased with the district’s performance on results of curriculum tests announced Friday, though the scores can’t be compared with earlier scores because of changes in the testing.

“The raw scores show the school district to be about even with the state average,” Superintendent Dr. James Price said. “That’s good, particularly because the curriculum and tests have been changed to make them much more rigorous.”

Over the past two years, Mississippi schools have implemented a more difficult mathematics and reading curriculum. In spring 2008, the more rigorous Mississippi Curriculum Test, Second Edition (MCT2), was given for the first time.

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“We have raised the bar for Mississippi’s children,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Hank M. Bounds. “We know that they are just as smart as the boys and girls in other states, and we have expectations that reflect our confidence in their abilities.”

The MCT2 is designed to assess a student’s mastery of content. Committees of grade and content teachers, who were nominated by district superintendents, were used to set the standards by reviewing the test items for a particular grade and course and identified groups of test items that characterized students in the performance levels of basic, proficient and advanced.

“We’re very happy with the results,” said Price, “but, truthfully, these numbers really don’t mean much without putting them into a formula that establishes whether we met our AYP, average yearly progress, or not.” The results of that formula will be released Oct. 9.

AYP is released each year and is based on the MCT2 and subject-area tests. A passing grade in the subject-area tests, which are administered to high school students, is required from each student for him or her to graduate; however, the impact ends there. The district is held accountable for the MCT2 tests, which are administered to third through eighth grades, and can face serious federal consequences if students are not meeting requirements.

“A required percentage of students who score proficient or higher on the MCT2 is required,” Price said. “Those percentages are based on last year’s tests dates. For example, last year, 71 percent of third-graders were required to be proficient or higher, so this year 81 percent of third-graders were required to be proficient or higher.”

Different this year is the lack of assignment of school performance rankings. Since 2003, classifications — Level 5-superior performing, Level 4-exemplary, Level 3-successful, Level 2-underperforming and Level 1-low performing — have been assigned to schools based on test scores and improvement.

The new test makes comparing 2006 and 2007 scores impossible. The classifications will return in 2009, working from a base of 2008 scores.

The only school in the district to achieve Level 5 last year was Bowmar Elementary.