Moore Schools Do Well on State ABCs
The Moore County school system fared well on the N.C. Department of Public Instruction's "ABCs of Public Education" growth and performance standards for 2007-2008.
Twenty of the county's 22 schools achieved expected or high academic growth for the previous school year.
Academy Heights Elementary was named an "Honor School of Excellence," the highest recognition for a school in the state, meaning it achieved 90 percent proficiency on state tests. Pinehurst Elementary and West Pine Middle were named "Schools of Distinction," achieving 80 to 89 percent proficiency.
Another 10 schools -- Cameron Elementary, Carthage Elementary, Sandhills Farm Life, Highfalls Elementary, New Century Middle, Southern Pines Primary, Southern Pines Elementary, Union Pines High, Vass-Lakeview Elementary, and West End Elementary -- were designated as "Schools of Progress," meaning that they met 60 to 79 percent proficiency.
Six schools -- Aberdeen Primary, Aberdeen Elementary, Robbins Elementary, Southern Middle, Westmoore Elementary -- were designated as "Priority Schools" achieving between 50 and 59 percent proficiency.
Pinecrest High and North Moore High received no recognition.
Dr. Susan Purser, superintendent of the school system, praised the progress that the schools were making, but she stressed the importance of not taking the results out of context.
"Tests have value, but they have value when they are used appropriately," she said. "My concern is they're being used out of context. Our schools are doing a better job than they ever have."
About 91 percent of the public schools in Moore County Schools met or exceeded expected growth, compared to 82 percent statewide.
The release of these results was delayed this year because of the institution of a more stringent reading test designed to make the system more progressive. It presents more challenging skills to earlier grade levels, making the test more difficult.
Because it is a new test, results from previous years cannot be compared to the current one. However, when the old grading standard is applied to the new test, results are consistent, according to Purser.
"The state board is aggressively moving us forward," Purser said. "The good news is, we didn't succumb to a harder test."
State Superintendent June Atkinson said in a conference call last week that just because students received lower scores on the new test doesn't mean they've regressed. She said it is just a result of the test being more difficult.
Purser said a common misperception with the reading test is the belief that it is a literacy test. In reality, it focuses mainly on critical reading and comprehension, requiring students to read a passage and answer questions about it.
"A lot of people don't understand what students are doing," Purser said.
Because the new test was implemented in the middle of the year, Purser said the challenge for teachers was to pull all of these new pieces together and adjust to the new requirements.
The ABCs performance accountability model measures school achievement by taking into account whether or not the school achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind; whether the school achieved high or expected academic growth from one year to the next; and the percentage of students' test scores at or above the proficient level.
Academic growth is calculated by comparing students' academic performance from year to year and by comparing that growth to what was typical in prior years across the state.
Proficiency is calculated by a "performance composite," which is the percentage of the test scores in the school at or above Achievement Level III. It is not the percentage of students.
Only seven schools in the system -- Cameron Elementary, Sandhills Farm Life, Highfalls Elementary, North Moore High, Academy Heights Elementary, Pinehurst Elementary, and West End Elementary -- met AYP as set forth by No Child Left Behind.
Purser said that while she is a strong advocate of accountability, she thinks No Child Left Behind judges schools unfairly. To meet AYP, schools are required to meet a number of goals. Because it is an "all-or-nothing" system, a school must meet all of those goals in order to get recognition. A school like Robbins Elementary, which met 20 out of its 21 AYP goals, is still considering a "failing school" even though it has made great progress.
"The fact that 20 out of 21 targets were hit should be celebrated," Purser said. "[AYP] says it's a failing school, and it's not."
Purser said her priority as superintendent is to find out what's important to this community and meet the standards they set. She said there are more ways to measure success than through testing and wants to show how that success is being achieved.
"Tests have been used inappropriately to make judgments when they are out of context," she said. "I'm passionate about defining learning in a way other than testing. I want to report on how we are finding success."
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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