Statewide test scores were released Thursday with Wake County officials touting gains in student achievement.
This year’s scores were the first under the state’s new standards that accept some lower scores as passing. End-of-grade and end-of-course tests are scored on levels; with 3, 4 and 5 considered passing.
This year, the state lowered the score needed to reach Level 3. The old Level 3 became the new Level 4 and the old Level 4 was changed to a newly created Level 5. The change created significant increases for some schools in eastern Wake County, which has had trouble breaking past a 50 percent passing threshold in the past.
The tests are part of the state’s READY initiative, which measures content knowledge and career and college readiness. The scores now are also factored in schools’ state report cards, which will be released in February.
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Here are some highlights from eastern Wake schools’ scores:
East Wake High School’s School of Health Sciences saw the largest percentage increase in students passing – going from 37.5 percent last year to 54.1 percent this year – among eastern Wake’s non-charter schools. EWHS School of Health Sciences 19-point percentage increase trumps Knightdale High’s 18-point increase, having moved from 26.9 percent passing last year to 44.8 percent this year.
Zebulon Elementary had the most students pass (earning a Level 3, 4 or 5 on end-of-grade tests) among non-charter schools in east Wake. The school had 61.1 percent of students passing and also exceeded its growth targets. It also had the highest percentage of students performing at levels 4 and 5 – a total of 46.7 percent. Even if the state’s standards had not changed and still only accepted the equivalent of levels 4 and 5 as passing scores, Zebulon Elementary would have the highest percentage of students passing this year among non-charter schools in eastern Wake County.
Lake Myra Elementary had the highest percentage of students performing at Level 5 but didn’t meet their growth target, among non-charter schools in the area. Principal Tina Zarzecki said the school is already planning to look at the data to figure out why those growth targets weren’t met. “Our expectation is that every child ... (has) a year’s worth of growth,” she said. Zarzecki said her staff already focuses on creating different lesson plans to help with student understanding and success and practices like that will continue as the staff delves deeper into the data.
Knightdale and East Wake high schools exceeded their graduation targets. Both schools had a goal of reaching 80 percent. KHS got by with an 80.8 percent and East Wake reached 87.7 percent. Knightdale principal and former Lake Myra principal Jim Argent said the school will continue to focus on improving graduations rates and other test scores by taking the time to teach students ‘core competencies’ that will apply to all subject matter . “We want all students to believe they have the ability to be highly successful,” Argent said.
None of eastern Wake’s middle schools met their growth targets. The middle schools (East Wake, Wendell and Zebulon) had only about half of its student body passing. Zebulon Middle had the highest percentage, at exactly 50 percent. The schools did make gains in individual subjects, as Wendell Middle School principal Mary Castleberry pointed out.
“We have a lot to celebrate and a lot of work left to do,” she said. One reason why middle schools might struggle with state scores and growth targets is because of the number of tests some students have to take in middle school, Castleberry posited. Some students may have five consecutive days of testing, depending on what classes they take.
East Wake High School’s School of Engineering had 35.1 percent of students test at a Level 1, the lowest score students can receive. It was the highest percentage of Level 1 scores in eastern Wake County. The school was also the only one of six schools in the area that didn’t meet or exceed its growth target.
Seven east Wake schools had less than a 50 percent passing rate this year. They were: East Wake and Wendell middle schools, Hodge Road Elementary School, Knightdale High School and and East Wake High School’s School of the Arts, School of Engineering and School of Integrated Technology.
East Wake Academy, the area’s only charter school, had a 76 percent overall passing rate. The school exceeded its growth targets and had the lowest percentage of students performing at a Level 1, with 7.4 percent.
If the state had not adjusted its standards to lower the score needed to pass, no non-charter school in east Wake would have over a 50 percent passage rate this year.