gets grades: State releases testing information for all schools
By Robbie Byrd, News Editor
The Escambia County School System is taking a hard look at over 22,000 pages of information released by the Alabama State Department of Education - information Superintendent of Schools Melvin "Buck" Powell said will be most beneficial to the school system's future.
Last week, the state department released testing information for all state school systems, including breakdowns of scores by income level, gender and ethnicity.
Powell said that two county schools have been placed on "Academic Priority," while three other schools were placed on "Academic Watch."
Powell said that these categories did not mean the schools were in any "trouble," but that the new classifications were to aid schools that could use improvement in certain areas of academics.
"'Academic Priority' does not mean that these schools are in any kind of trouble," Powell said. "It only means that issues they cited had a possibility to become problems, so we want to head these off before they do."
ECHS was placed under the "Academic Priority" status based on Alabama High School Graduation Exam numbers. The school received a 79 percent passing rate, only one percent under the state minimum of 80 percent for clear schools.
McCall Pollard Middle School, located in Pollard, was placed on the priority status based on its scores from the Alabama Direct Assessment of Writing test.
Schools placed on the "Academic Watch" status included ECMS, for average percentile scores less than 40 but greater than 30, and W.S. Neal Middle School for scores of less than 20.11 percent for fifth grade and 24.77 percent for seventh grade on the Alabama Direct Assessment of Writing.
These scores were not problematic, and the "Academic Watch" status is considered to be less severe than the priority status.
However, Powell reiterated that the scores did not mean poor performance, only that schools should direct more attention in these areas "before they become a problem."
Mary Bess Powell, assistant director for testing and coordinator for the federal program "No Child Left Behind," said the scores left little to the imagination.
"These scores are showing the same thing people are seeing across the state," she said. "These scores were broken down into numerous factors. We think this will help us in targeting areas we couldn't before."
Powell said the information provided will help close the student achievement gap, a point the "No Child Left Behind" program emphasizes.
The report breaks down several different tests the state administers, including the fifth and seventh grade writing assessment, Stanford Achievement Test, Edition 9 (commonly referred to as the SAT9), and the AHSGE.
On the SAT9, students scored in the 40th percentile through grades 3-4 in math, reading, language and science at A.C. Moore Elementary school.
At Huxford Elementary, students from 3-6 grades averaged in the 66 percentile on the same subjects for the SAT9.
On the ADAW, students in Escambia County had 25 percent that met standards, while 75 fell below state standards.
AHSGE scores for both the county and Escambia County High school fell short of state averages, with an average passing rate of 65.19 percent for juniors and 84.86 percent for seniors on the four sections of students at Escambia County High School.
The county faired better, with a 73.92 percent passing rate for juniors and 91.04 percent for seniors.
The state faired better, with 82.46 percent passing rate for juniors and 95.60 percent passing rate for seniors.
All fired up
Powell said he was excited about the information the reports provided and the plans that he, county principals and development officials are excited about the efforts they can now proceed towards.
"We've got to work on areas where we are weak," Powell said. "We want to expand also on the programs that have been successful, and those that haven't, well, changes need to be made."
Powell said that the statistics gathered from the state will help school officials in developing professional development programs that will assist teachers in bringing up scores in those areas that are low.
"Professional development is something we're using these scores to work on," Powell said.
While school officials haven't finalized analyzing the data they received, but are hopeful that they can complete it in the coming days.
Full reports are available on the Alabama Department of Education's website: http://www.alsde.edu, under Accountability Reports.