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Testing data reveals race, income level differences

By By Robbie Byrd, News Editor
"This is a landmark day for Alabama's public schools… (this will begin a) new method of teaching and learning in our state's schools," said State Superintendent of Education Ed Richardson at a press conference held last week.
Why was Aug. 22 such a landmark day? Scores.
The Alabama Department of Education released a complete breakdown of several test scores collected by the state, all the way from ethnicity to income level.
This is the first time ever these have been dissected at this level, Richardson said.
Results from the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT 9), Alabama High School Graduation Exam and the Alabama Direct Assessments of Writing tests for all grades were reported to every state education board, broken down by gender, race, migrant status, special education status, English language proficiency, and economic level.
According to data from the ADE reporting system, Escambia County was slightly below the state average on most test scores, but jumped above those scores in seniors who passed the AHSGE.
"Many of the results are disturbing, but not surpirsing," said Deputy State Superintendent of Education Dr. Joe Morton. "Based on testing data from other states, we expected to see gaps among the demographics.
"One of the most glaring disparities is between students who receive free lunches and those who pay for meals at school. It is becoming all too apparent that the economic levels of students' parents play a key role in the educational success of a child."
Students who were not paid full price for school lunch were on average 18.5 percintile points higher than those on reduced lunch and 23.5 points higher than those on free lunch, based on averages of both A.C. Moore and ECMS.
Gender was another major area where educators saw distinct differences. On average, female students scored 9.5 percentile points higher than male students.
On average, White students outscored all other ethnic backgrounds with an average percentile score of 53. American Indian students came in second scoring 51, and black students in third with an average score of 34. A small percentage of students did not report their race.
Richardson said regardless of what the data may or may not prove, he hopes administrators and teachers will use this information to better help students learn.
"The key to turning this new information into results will be making sure all teachers and administrators better understand how to use the data to help students learn.
Escambia County Board of Education Superintendent Buck Powell said he will use the information to help principals develop professional development classes, focusing on helping teachers better present areas of curricula that test results showed children struggled in.
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. Professional development is something we're using these scores to work on," Powell said.
In the past, rating information for schools has been based solely on the SAT9. While the state says it will continue to use those scores as a monitoring factor, it will begin to phase in new tests as a part of its expanded accountability initiative.
Local scores were below the state average. A.C. Moore averaged in the 41th percentile, while the state average was in the 55th. ECMS scored in the 37th percentile.
Other area schools fared better on the test. Huxford scored in the 66th percentile, Perdido in the 58th, Flomaton Elementary in the 57th and McCall Pollard Jr. High scored in the 62nd percentile.
Scores were disseminated based on ethnicity, income level and education status and averaged together for the schools total percentile average, based on average national scores.
For complete statistics, visit the Alabama Department of Education's website at http://www.alsde.edu