Last updated: March 19. 2014 4:42PM - 941 Views
By Lauren Williams Staff Writer

Johnson addresses the Sampson County Board of Education during a meeting earlier this week.
Johnson addresses the Sampson County Board of Education during a meeting earlier this week.
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Dr. Wesley Johnson, director of Digital Teaching and Learning/Accountability, came before the Sampson County Board of Education during its work session on Tuesday with an update on test achievement levels which were recently changed by the State Board of Education (SBE).

Johnson pointed out that many testing changes had been made in recent months, including to the names of tests as well as how tests can be proctored.

This most recent change affecting End-of-Grade (EOG) and End-of-Course (EOC) tests adds a new achievement level, bringing the total number of levels now to five.

Level five is now assigned to superior achievement; level four to solid achievement; level three to sufficient achievement; level two to partial achievement; and level one to limited achievement.

“The old level four’s are the new level five’s,” explained Johnson, “and the old level three’s are the new level four’s.”

“The biggest change is the new level three’s,” he continued, explaining that state school officials took the highest few points in the old level two and made a new level three. “It’s a small cut score but there’s a lot of kids that fall in those two to three points on that mean (average).”

Back in October of last year, the SBE chose to adopt college-and-career readiness Academic Achievement Standards and Academic Achievement Descriptors for the EOG and the EOC, standards, Johnson said, that didn’t seem to take into account standard error of measurement.

However, just this month the SBE revisited that decision and chose to adopt a new methodology so that a new achievement level could be added and a new, better standard error of measurement could be established.

According to a letter sent in early March from Rebecca B. Garland, Deputy State Superintendent, the change to the achievement levels came “after considering much input on the importance of having more definitive discrimination for student achievement reporting.”

“The addition of the new Achievement Level 3 will identify students who are prepared for the next grade, but do not meet the college-and-career readiness standard,” the letter reads. “An additional level will also enable more accurate identification of students who need additional instruction and assistance.”

The new cut scores and descriptors will affect EOC tests in Biology I, English II, and Math I; EOG tests in English Language Arts/Reading and math for grades 3-8 and in science for grades 5 and 8; plus the related alternate assessments.

The result of the achievement level changes is an average of a 10 percent increase on performance composite scores, noted Johnson, adding that the gap per level is around 10 points.

The changes will not call for 2012-13 test data to be recalculated, and while some school systems will have to go back and apply the new levels to test data from fall 2013, Sampson County Schools will not be required to.

“Class rosters with grades based on the State percents’ method will not be affected,” the letter from Garland explained. “It is a local decision whether or not to revisit final grade calculations for fall 2013…Individual student reports (ISRs) will be redesigned to report a student’s on grade-level proficiency and the level of college-and-career readiness for spring 2014 administrations.”

The state’s decision to change its test achievement levels is quite monumental, noted Johnson, as the change will only be accepted at the state level; the new achievement level threes will not be federally recognized.

The state “will continue to report student performance on college-and-career readiness standards. For college-and-career readiness, the percent of students at or above Level 4 will be used. The college-and-career readiness standard will be used for the Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO) that are part of federal reporting. AMOs were set in 2012–13 using the college-and-career readiness standard; therefore, targets will not be redefined,” informed Garland in her letter superintendents throughout the state. “Proficiency on state school performance grades will be calculated using Level 3 and above.”

“It’s the first time in the state’s history that that’s ever happened,” Johnson pointed out.

“We’re not the only state doing this,” added Tommy Macon, assistant superintendent for Academics and Student Services.

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at lwilliams@civitasmedia.com.

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