More Durham Public Schools students are performing at grade level than last year, according to 2013-14 End-of-Grade and End-of-Course test results that were released Thursday.
Preliminary results indicate 44.2 percent of students were proficient or passed the tests, compared to 34 percent last year.
But that is with help from the state.
The results are based on standardized end-of-grade tests in reading and math in third through eighth grades, science tests for fifth- and eighth-graders, and end of course tests in three high school subjects.
The tests are based on the more rigorous Common Core standards in English and math and state standards in other subjects. This was Common Core’s second year. After the first year of Common Core, test scores dropped dramatically and DPS was at the bottom among the five districts in the Triangle.
Students could score a Level 1, 2, 3 or 4. Scoring Level 3 and 4 meant you were proficient. After test scores dropped, the State Board of Education approved a new scale with five levels in March, making it easier to pass.
Now students can score a level 3, 4 or 5 and still be considered grade-level proficient. However, if they score a 3, they are not considered on track to be college or career ready, according to state and federal standards, said Julia Spencer, assistant superintendent for research and accountability.
DPS’s 44.2 percent passing rate compares to a 66.6 percent in Wake, 77.1 percent in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, 59.6 percent in Orange County, 58 percent in Johnston County and 56.3 percent statewide.
But it appears that DPS students performed relatively the same as last year. About 35 percent are considered on track for college or career now.
Some schools did better than others. Pearsontown, Mangum, and Clement Early College had the most college and career ready students, with rough two-thirds of their students scoring a level 4 or 5.
Students improved in math (3-8), science (5,8), English II, and math I, but showed decreases in reading (3-8) and biology.
The state didn’t release the 2012-13 test results until November last year, the first year of Common Core. Spencer said the delay had a negative impact. She said receiving the test results in November put them behind a few months in preparing for the next school year because they could not use the data.
“We have three extra months of being able to use the data,” Spencer said. “It’s one thing to get your data in September. It’s another thing to get it in November when you’re right in your school year. I think that is something that we are looking forward to.”
Schools are working with school improvement teams, families and staff to address the data, she said.
Spencer added that although proficiency hasn’t shown much increase, students are still showing growth. She explained that some students were well below grade level, and even if they improved a little bit, it still wouldn’t affect the proficiency percentage if they did not reach proficiency in their grade level.
For instance, if a fourth grade student was reading at a first grade level, and improved to a third grade level, that student is still not grade-level proficient. She said that was the case with a lot of students.
Four-year graduation rates increased once again for DPS and statewide. The state board reported 81.5 percent of DPS students who entered ninth grade in 2010 graduated within four years. DPS’s graduation rate has steadily risen from 63.0 percent of its students in 2008-09 to 81.5 percent in 2013-14.
“I’m proud of our students’ increased graduation rate and of the hard work our teachers and staff do every day for our students,” said DPS Superintendent Bert L’Homme. “However, we need to do more to ensure that every student graduates ready for college or career. We challenge our students and schools to exceed expectations every day. We are committed to mobilizing the support they need both from our district and our community.”