Bertie test scores outgain predictions

Published 11:13 am Wednesday, September 8, 2010

• First in a Series

WINDSOR – The Bertie County Board of Education received good news here Tuesday night.

During its regular meeting, the board learned that test scores from throughout the district were rising at a faster rate than targeted.

Testing Coordinator Eva White gave the board a thorough review of test data from throughout the nine schools in the district, noting that many of the testing results were higher than anticipated.

The news was good nearly across the board.

At the elementary school level, Bertie County Schools reached a new threshold for overall composite.

“None of our elementary schools had a composite score over 60 percent in 2008-09,” White said. “This year, we had a lot of success and a lot of growth and all of the composites are above 60 percent.”

The composite scores give the percentage of students who have reached Level III or Level IV, the two highest levels of testing. Level III students demonstrate competency in skills while Level IV students show mastery of those skills.

The biggest composite gain was at Colerain Elementary School where Principal Fannie Williams’ school jumped 12.2 percentage points from a composite of 53.4 to 65.6 percent.

West Bertie Elementary School’s Wayne Mayo also saw vast improvements in the scores of his students. The composite for West Bertie increased 10.7 percentage points from 51.9 to 62.6.

There were also gains of 9.1 percent at Windsor Elementary School under now-retired Principal Renee Duckenfield and 1.9 percent at Aulander Elementary School under Elaine White.

Overall, the district’s elementary composite increased from 54.2 percent to 63.3 percent.

Bertie Middle School also increased dramatically in its overall testing composite. Principal Sandra Hardy’s school had its overall composite for grades six through eight increased from 58 to 65.4 percent.

At the high school level, there were also significant gains in the overall composite scores.

Leading the way in overall scoring is the Bertie School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Principal G. Fisher Mitchell’s school has an overall composite of 87.9 percent. That is up from 73.2 percent a year ago.

Bertie Early College is also well above the 80 percent threshold. Principal Bobby Occena led his school to an overall composite of 85.7 percent, which is up from 64.9 percent last year.

The school known as Bertie Preparatory High School increased its overall composite from 70.6 percent to 77.2 percent despite adding the tenth grade back to its cohort of students. Principal Trey Peele’s school added the tenth grade this past school year.

Bertie High School is still the lowest-performing of all the high schools, but made a significant stride last year. Under the leadership of Mitchell, the school went from 31.8 percent to 49.4 percent composite.

Bertie High School and Bertie Prep are recognized as one school by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. That means for testing purposes, the two schools are considered one unit and the overall composite of the combined scores increased from 41 percent in 08-09 to 66.8 percent last year.

Board member Emma Johnson said the elementary scores were too low and that she wasn’t pleased with what she was hearing, but Interim Superintendent Dr. Will Crawford and other board members had a differing view.

Johnson said she wanted to know what strategies were going to be put in place to increase test scores.

“I think the strategies are in place and what you are seeing is a result of that,” Dr. Crawford said. “The test scores you are seeing are above both the predicted and the targeted scores. That is good news. The strategies that have been put in place are working.

“The good news is you are out-pacing predictions,” he added. “Obviously there are strategies in place.”

Johnson again raised concerns about middle school scores, saying reading scores were low.

“We are making progress,” White said. “It may not be overnight.”

Dr. Crawford said the scores are still too low overall, but it has to be measured against where the school district was.

“When I looked at data from afar, it was nauseating,” he said. “As I look close, I see that from where you were, it is great.”

Vice Chairman Alton Parker agreed.

“We are making great strides,” he said.

Board members Rickey Freeman and Pamela Chamblee said Johnson should keep in mind that teachers teach the students they receive. The instructors have to take those who are below levels and move them forward and the test data indicates that is happening.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction predicts the number of proficient students in each testing area. Last year, the school board took those percentages and asked for an additional 20 percent of students to move to proficient levels.

Johnson said those targets may have been too low.

“I don’t think it’s realistic for us to set a target of 90 percent right now,” Freeman said. “If the state is saying 48 percent, it’s not realistic to expect 85 percent.”

Dr. Crawford said both positions were correct.

“The gains are where you have to take comfort,” he said. “You set your standards higher than the state and you are still surpassing them.

“Is 53 percent enough or 57 percent enough? No,” he added. “But if you are looking at the indicators you are growing in the right direction and faster than most would have anticipated.”

In the ABC’s of the Department of Public of Instruction, all four elementary schools moved from Priority Schools to Schools of Progress. All four met expected growth and high growth.

Bertie Middle School was also a School of Progress after reaching expected growth. Bertie High School was designated a School of Progress and STEM was designated a School of Distinction.

The federal standards of Adequate Yearly Progress were also met by most schools in the county. Aulander, Colerain, West Bertie, Bertie Early College, Bertie High and the Bertie STEM School each met AYP.

Next in series: An in-depth look at the elementary school scores.