Proficiency standards see changes

By Wendy Wood

November 6, 2013

North Carolina students now have a higher proficiency standard to meet on the state’s end-of-grade and end-of-course tests. New standards were approved Oct. 3 by the State Board of Education to bring expectations for student performance in line with current career and college expectations.

When the 2012-13 test results are provided to parents, schools and districts in November, results will be much lower than North Carolina has seen for a number of years, according to officials with the Elkin City Schools. The test results from last year will give educators a baseline measurement for their students as the school system moves forward. Elkin City Schools officials said they fully expect proficiency levels to steadily increase as teachers and students acclimate to the new content standards and expectations.

It is important for North Carolinians to have assessments that give everyone a clear picture of how well students are prepared for today’s jobs and careers,” said State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey.

Officials said the community must stay united and stand behind its students and teachers as they embark upon the new expectations included in the new Accountability Model. Elkin students and educators have always had the determination to strive to be the best.

“We know that with your support, they will continue with the tradition,” said city school officials.

The goal with Common Core is to put emphasis on what students need in order to be successful after high school. Achievement levels in North Carolina have historically been focused more on what students needed to be successful at the next grade level.

Based on analyses provided by North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, schools and parents will see drops as high as 30 to 40 percentage points in proficiency levels of students scoring proficient or above. The city schools will refer to the 2012-13 school year as the transition year and consider the scores as a baseline for these new assessments and new accountability model.

It is important to remember that North Carolina did not lose ground in their learning last year, but they are being measured against a higher standard with more rigorous expectations for applying knowledge and skills to real-world problems. Some educators have compared it to stepping out of the minor league into the major league.

The community must also keep in mind that the new assessments cannot be compared to the previous year’s assessments and scores. The format of the assessments is different and measures new content standards. The revised Standard Course of Study was implemented for the first time in North Carolina in 2012-13 which means that the assessments reflected in the new standards also were given to students for the first time in the 2012-13 school year.

North Carolina students take state assessments in English Language Arts and mathematics in grades 3-8; science end-of-grade assessments in grades 5 and 8; and three high school courses – Math I; Biology and English II.

Remember on testing days, a child will perform his/her best if they have a good night’s sleep and eat breakfast. All the educators ask or expect is that each child performs his/her best. Parents who would like more information regarding the scores and new assessments should contact their child’s principal.