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Test scores in Brunswick County schools saw a considerable dip because of increased standards across North Carolina.
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) released results Friday, Nov. 8, that show a drop statewide in performance on the new Common Core assessments, which students took for the first time last school year.
The annual exams were changed for 2012-13 testing cycle to match the Common Core curriculum.
School district leaders in Brunswick County say those changes historically cause a decrease in scores.
“It is important to understand that with more rigorous standards come newer, more difficult tests,” Superintentendent Edward Pruden said.
On average, North Carolina schools saw proficiency drop by 30 to 40 percentage points in 2012-13 over the previous year, Pruden said in a press conference Nov. 8.
“That’s how it should be because it proves that standards have indeed been raised,” he said.
Pruden said he was not surprised to see scores fall, but he said he “never expects Brunswick County to fall below the state averages.”
“I expect Brunswick County Schools to go above and beyond the state averages,” he said.
Overall, 44.7 percent of North Carolina students were considered proficient on tests in reading, science and math, while Brunswick County’s composite was 42.4 percent.
The district saw scores in line with the state’s average of 43.9 percent in reading for grades three through eight, but fell short in math in those grade levels and science, which is tested in fifth and eighth grades.
“We have been focusing like a laser on literacy the last few years … and it has paid off,” Pruden said. “As you can see, we have a gap in math and science. It shows we need a laser-like focus in those areas.”
Pruden said it was important for educators in Brunswick County to use available resources to close the gap in math and science.
“The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has ample resources for us to use,” he said. “We also have to find the schools in our area that have been successful in math and science and collaborate with them to find possible solutions. We will talk with other counties who had higher test scores in those areas to see what we can do to improve.”
Pruden added Brunswick County Schools must maintain focus on literacy as English scores have dramatically improved over the last several years.
At the high school level, Brunswick County Schools outperformed the state on Math I exams, with 45.2 percent proficiency while the statewide average was 42.4. It was also slightly up the state in English II but two points below the state average in biology.
NCDPI testing data also measures growth where a student should be at the end of the year, based on where he or she began, and Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs).
Similar to No Child Left Behind’s goals, AMOs are targets for specific subgroups of 30 or more students, such as economically disadvantaged and limited English proficiency.
“Lincoln students do not walk in the door with high scores … and Union serves a more affluent area of the county. Some have complained that it is hard to show growth when you are already high-performing,” Pruden said. “What they both prove is that every student can exceed growth regardless of where (he or she) begins. And whichever side of the spectrum you are on, you can still exceed growth.”
In addition, Brunswick County’s graduation rates continued to increase in 2012-13. Brunswick County Schools’ rate of 85.7 percent was three percentage points higher than the state average. Also, Brunswick County graduated students at a higher rate in 11 of the 13 subgroups listed.
Sam Hickman is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.