Durham schools expect lower scores

jwise@newsobserver.comOctober 31, 2013 

The Durham Public Schools wants to get the public conditioned before last spring’s standardized test scores come out.

They may not look very good. But looks may be deceiving.

Individual school and district scores on End-of-Grade and End-of-Course assessments are due for release Thursday, Nov. 7, and educators statewide expect them to be lower, maybe much lower, than in the recent past.

That’s because the 2013 tests were based on new, tougher statewide standards, and when standards have risen in the past, test results went down – some as much as 30 percent.

“Our hope is that when folks see (scores) they will ... understand what they are reading,” said Julie Spencer, DPS’ superintendent of middle school curriculum. “The curriculum is different as well as the assessment is different.”

Spencer and Stacey Wilson-Norman, deputy superintendent of academic studies, delivered the message at a recent InterNeighborhood Council meeting and asked the delegates to spread the word.

“We want to make sure that people ... don’t walk away thinking, ‘Wow, what happened to that school? They used to be performing at this level and now it looks like their scores have dropped,’” Spencer said.

“We will rise to this challenge … but we also know the reality of parental and community perception,” she said.

The “Common Core” curriculum instituted in the 2012-13 school year is more rigorous than the curriculum it replaced and is intended to do a better job of preparing students for jobs and college.

“Nationwide, colleges are complaining about the number of students that need remedial courses,” Wilson-Norman said. “North Carolina is not in this alone.”

Past experience shows that scores do, in time, go up once teachers get used to new curricula and students get used to how they are tested. With Common Core, though, both have to get used to it as they go along.

“It’s not an excuse,” Spencer said. “It is a big change.

“Last school year was the big change. New curriculum, new assessments, and truthfully there was not a lot of preparation on the front end from the state. ... While we’re teaching the new curriculum they’re providing clarification ... things are changing constantly,” she said.

“Our teachers have really risen to the occasion, our schools are progressing nicely,” Wilson-Norman said. “But … we’re unsure what the data might show.”

Wise: 919-641-5895

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