Change in Test Causes Spike in School AYP Scores

January 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Press Release

Contact: Neil Mellen
South Carolinians for Responsible Government (SCRG)
803.212.1051

Officials have released details of this year’s public school rankings and parents are in for a surprise.

While Adequate Yearly Progress (or “AYP”) scores for elementary and middle schools across South Carolina have risen slightly, higher levels of student achievement are not the cause.

“Most of the improvement we see is the result of changes to the testing and scoring system,” explained Randy Page, president of an educational watchdog organization in Columbia. “When the schools switched from the PACT test to the new PASS test standards were lowered, giving the false impression that achievement gains were made.”

“Teachers, parents, students, and just about everyone was happy to see the PACT test replaced, but the school administrators and school boards lobbied hard to include a provision that weakens the way the new test would be graded and reported,” observed Page.

Last year, national testing experts at the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) criticized the new PASS test standards “as among the bottom quartile in a recent cross-state comparison of proficient standards within 27 states.”

The NWEA report further noted that just switching from PACT to PASS, would bring about a “dramatic” increase in the number of students meeting the standards “even with no actual improvement on student performance.”

Officials at Data Recognition Corp (DRC), a Minnesota based firm with political connections to Superintendent Jim Rex, seemed to agree. DRC created and helps to administer the PASS test, and was the primary contractor on the PACT test that PASS replaced. Last year a DRC official admitted to the press that under the recommended PASS scoring benchmarks, more students would fall into higher categories, which would lead to higher scores. In other words, scores would automatically rise even if student and school performance were stagnant.

Page and others have made the case that increasing parental choice would strengthen the state’s accountability laws and free up more resources for public schools.

“An educational tax credit program would provide parents with real options and save local school districts over $5,000 in locally raised revenues for each child whose parents exercise a choice about where their child attends school” noted Page, who pointed to similar programs already in effect in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida. “Educational tax credits would spur investment in education and give parents more of a reason to be engaged with their students education – that is something that standardized tests and AYP reports alone will never accomplish.”

Details of the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for local schools and districts can be found online at: www.ed.sc.gov/topics/assessment/scores/ayp/

School is Out Early in South Carolina

May 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Opinion

School is Out Early in South Carolina

School is Out Early in South Carolina

I respect our teachers and the hard work they put in for our kids.  They are true heroes for the hell they go through to teach our kids.

With that said though, I do take issue with the practice of ending all educational teaching approximately 2 weeks before the end of the year.

Our worst in the nation education system apparently quits teaching as soon as students have taken their MAP, PASS (formerly PACT), or whatever other tests they may have to take.  Our students then sit in a classroom and play games, do crafts and watch movies for the final two weeks of school.  Not to mention the two half-days which amounts to a babysitting job for the teachers.

I have talked to some teachers in Spartanburg School District 2 that have already turned in textbooks and have submitted their final grades, all as of late last week.  Correct me if I am wrong, but when I was in school, textbooks were taken up and grades submitted on the next to last day.  The final day was used for goodbye, class parties and the distribution of report cards, when it was all done by hand.  If technology is supposed to make everything faster, then why are they closing down so early?

Schools are required by state law to have 180 instructional school days.  I guess it is up to the school district to determine what constitutes an instructional school day.  I would say that our students are only getting 167 instructional school days, if all of those days are used for instruction.

Let me be clear though, I am not pinning this on the teachers. They are doing what is asked of them.

I believe this falls into the hands of our school district administrators and they must be held accountable!

Controversy over final PACT scores highlights flaws in state reporting

September 11, 2008 by  
Filed under SC Politics

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Neil Mellen
Tuesday, September 10, 2008
(803) 212-1051

Amid heated debated about weakening of state standards and reform of student funding, the last-ever results of the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test (PACT) were released today.
Scores among eighth graders averaged fifteen percentage points behind students in the third grade, suggesting that social promotion of unqualified students remains a major problem in public schools.

Of the 51, 252 third graders taking the PACT in 2008, only 56.6 percent scored “Proficient” or “Advanced” in English Language Arts.  For eighth graders, the percentage of students meeting the standard is even lower, with only 27.9% scoring “Proficient” or “Advanced” on the reading and writing portion of the test.

Proficiency in Math for 3rd grade test takers is only 33%, which drops all the way to 20.8% of eighth graders who scored “Proficient” or “Advanced.” For eighth graders this represents only a 1.1% increase in math proficiency from 2007; hardly the “wave of progress” praised by the State Department of Education.

A mere eight in one hundred African American eighth grade students obtained a score of “Proficient” or better on the math portion of the PACT. This shameful figure reflects a long-term trend in the growth of the black-white and poor-rich student performance gaps.

Despite these major problems, Jim Rex has tried to characterize the scores as a success. He has also argued for further weakening of state and federal accountability laws.
Lawmakers and policy experts have already noted the newly released PACT scores are at odds with results from recent national tests, both ACT and SAT scores, as well as recent federally conducted tests such as the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).

Part of the disparity is based on South Carolina’s unique manner of grading its test, including rating children who are at a “basic” level of performance – but still “nonproficient” – as meeting the state standard. This problem will worsen in coming years because education bureaucrats will reduce the number of performance categories as part of the PACT replacement legislation that passed earlier this year.

“The major disconnect with falling SAT and ACT scores once again shows South Carolina’s public schools are not holding themselves to a high and objective standard,” explained Randy Page, President of South Carolinians for Responsible Government.

“South Carolina needs to use a single nationally-normed test to compare student progress with scores throughout the country in a true apples-to-apples way,” continued Page. “Whether it is PACT –or the new PASS test– South Carolina is not giving parents real and relevant data about the status of their children’s academic progress. A quality education for every child, and accurate information for their parents, are basic civil rights.”
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