The Forsyth County school system continues to perform well on state testing at the elementary, middle and high school levels, according to results released this week by the state Department of Education.
“As a system, I could not really be any more thrilled,” said Superintendent Buster Evans of the district’s school-level results on the End of Course Test, or EOCT, and Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, or CRCT.
“There are some areas where we always have some work to do ... but we will outpace the state on achievement and that makes me feel really, really good,” Evans said. “We are continuing to lead the way in terms of high performance in exceeding expectations.”
Students in third through eighth grades take the CRCT. The EOCTs, which cover various subjects, are taken by high school students and count for 20 percent of their final grade.
Test results are being measured differently under the new College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI, standards.
This is only the second year results are being viewed using the new guidelines and Beth Kieffer, the school system’s director of assessment, said it’s only going to become more difficult.
With the results released, Evans said the real challenge is “to look at our individual subgroups and make sure our English language learners are progressing at the rate we want ... and that students with disabilities and economically challenged students.”
“There are continued opportunities for us to focus on school improvements,” he said.
Science, social studies focus
Science and social studies, the two newest subjects, continue to be a focus for the system as it works toward lifting its CRCT scores.
The widest spread in results came in those two subjects, which count toward the new College and Career Ready Performance Index standards.
Cindy Salloum, chief accountability officer for the school district, said those two areas will be incorporated into other subjects to help increase results.
“We’ll have more integration of science and social studies into the reading and math areas, so while they’re teaching those elementary students better reading skills, they’ll also be able to incorporate science and social studies,” Salloum said. “We anticipate they will be working on that this coming year.”
While the system aims to improve scores, all Forsyth results are higher than the state average and many are in the 90 percentile range.
“This was our first year for science and social studies to count, so we now have baseline data,” Salloum said. “Now with this baseline data, our schools will be able to incorporate that in their school improvement plan and they’ll be able to work on it.
Salloum was impressed with reading scores systemwide, with the entire district ranging from 91.9 percent all the way to 100 percent.
“We felt like we had a good showing in reading,” she said. “South Forsyth Middle School had 100 percent in all grades in reading.”
Under the new index’s standards, comparing data year to year is focused on class growth over time.
So instead of comparing the fourth-grade class this year with how last year’s fourth -graders performed, the system will track how last year’s third-graders are performing in fourth grade, and what their results look like next year in fifth grade.
“We look at growth percentiles,” said Karl Mercer, system assessment coordinator. “We can kind of look at it at a grade-by-grade basis ... that’s really what our focus is, it’s not the same grade every year, but it’s how the kids progress through school and if they are improving.
“We really have to focus on the growth trend and what it looks like.”
Percentages rise on EOCT
Much like reading at the middle school level, Forsyth’s ninth-graders all scored a 90 percent or higher on the literature test.
“That means they’re making a nice transition into high school,” Salloum said.
High school students across the board struggled in coordinate algebra, typically taken by ninth-graders. The subject was added to the standards last year.
Though the number of students at the county’s five high schools who met or exceeded standards in the class ranged from 68 percent to 76 percent, they still topped the state average of 37 percent.
However, eighth-graders across the county out-performed their high school counterparts on the subject, with the percentages at the nine middle schools ranging from 83 to 92.
Fortunately for those students who didn’t meet the standards, there are remediation and make-up opportunities, Kieffer said.
Even students who passed the test can retake it to improve their scores and drive up their final grade.
“That’s where I see the retest coming in more for those kids who really, really wanted an ‘A,’ or on their transcript they wanted a better score for college entrance than what they got,” she said. “If you had a ‘B’ in the class and ended up with a ‘C’ ... you can retest and try for that ‘B.’”
According to Kieffer, most of those who didn’t pass have already taken the remediation class and retested this summer.
Students don’t need to pass the test to complete the course. As long as their score didn’t drop them to below a passing grade, they don’t have to retake the test, Kieffer said.
Overall, Salloum said the test results increased by about 1 to 3 percentage points from 2012 to 2013, with the exception of biology, which dipped by just 1 percent.
“From last year to this year, the percentage of exceeds in all those courses went up. Economics went up 10 percentage points,” she said. “So they’re working diligently on every course to increase their percentage of exceeds.”