PE Supervisors, School Board Discuss Test Scores
Published 1:58 pm Thursday, January 15, 2015
PRINCE EDWARD — County school board and board of supervisors were finally able to work out a scheduled meeting Tuesday evening to talk about test scores.
“The school board has worked very diligently over the last several years, as well, and our efforts are continuing,” noted Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith following a lengthy presentation. “They will continue. Our teachers are increasingly determined to see student achievement increase. The work of improvements is very difficult…for all and our staff members are working well and they…want to see students increase their learning. They don’t want to see students go the other way and that’s a commitment that we all have. We want to do the best we can for our students.”
The meeting with most, but not all, school board members present, has been brewing since the release of the most recent round of SOL tests. Last year was not a good one, though Dr. Smith cited some specific areas staying the same or improving, and others that were the focus of their concern.
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Buffalo District Supervisor C.R. “Bob” Timmons Jr. circulated handouts of past SOL performance dating from 2005.
“It shows that our students are not performing as well today as they were ten years ago and it’s a steady decline,” Timmons said. “And I’ve heard what you’ve said …you’re gonna be doing. What I haven’t heard is how are you gonna do interim milestones and interim benchmarking, how are you gonna make…adjustments to change these scores? These scores and…the trend that it shows here are just not acceptable for the citizens of the county.”
Timmons would add that he likes the plan to address math. (The school is realigning the middle school math program, effectively delaying the introduction of algebra to the eighth grade and later if more skill development is needed.)
“Everything that I explained gets at that with all of the core areas,” Dr. Smith said. “No, there has not been a restructuring like the math, but everything that we are doing, all the specifics that I named, apply to all the core areas and they’re all aimed at improving student tests (scores).”
Timmons offered that there needs to be some process with a measurable milestone so the superintendent, the school board, and the community knows that they are doing better or, if not, they’ve got to make an adjustment in that area.
Timmons, building on a suggestion from Supervisor Pattie Cooper-Jones, challenged the chairman of the school board and the school board to review test scores on a specific basis and publish the results of mid-term tests.
It would, he suggested, put the information out to the public.
It also, Timmons offered, gives the school information on what does and doesn’t work.
If it’s negative and continues to decline, cited Supervisor Jerry Townsend that they would have a “major issue.”
A Detailed Presentation
Dr. Smith, from the outset of the joint meeting, provided a detailed presentation on school improvement that ranged from efforts to realigning the curriculum in core areas with the changes in the SOLs in the summer, developing pacing guidelines, interventions with low-achieving students in reading and math, and detailing that they have a formative (diagnostic) tests put in place mid-year giving teachers and principals information aimed at SOLs.
He also cited efforts over the last couple of years aimed at helping student achievement long term—including changes in the schedule to a seven period day, aligning graduation requirements with state standards aimed at reducing dropouts and increase graduation rates, shifting the grading periods from six to nine weeks for longer periods of instruction between report cards, and training for teachers and the implementation of problem-based learning.
Still, supervisors pressed for some way to make an adjustment to turn things around. The schools have used benchmark assessments each six weeks in years past, the superintendent detailed, and didn’t predict SOL performance to the degree needed. A different test was implemented to provide teachers with specific information.
One area to be explored further is that of year-round schools—a topic touched on in the past by the school board.
“I know there’s been some interest expressed from some members of the school board, and we’re gonna take a look at the possibility of a year-round schooling plan,” Dr. Smith said. “One of the things that works against public education…right now is the extended summer breaks and if we can shorten the summer breaks, what students lose in their learning from the year before could be minimized and that’s something that could help student achievement as well.”