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Students will be able to pass tests

by Merrie Leininger

Concerns about large numbers of students unable to pass the state proficiency exam and the district’s achievement level tests, which are used to determine if students have met district competency levels, were quieted with help from DCSD assessments coordinator Janice Florey.

Florey presented statistical information Tuesday to compute the score students who pass the proficiency test would probably receive on the ALTs in both reading and math.

She used scores for tests this year’s juniors have already taken. The first class to be held accountable for the district’s graduation requirements is this year’s sophomores.

Her results, with consulting help from WestEd Regional Laboratory, were that the district’s reading and basic math achievement level tests require students to perform at a higher standard than the current high school proficiency exams.

In the area of reading, of the 224 students who both took the proficiency test and the ALT, 97 failed one or both of the tests. However, Florey said, that was the first try for students on the proficiency test and they will have five more chances to pass the test.

Florey said the large number of students who did not pass could be due to the small correlation between the ALT and the proficiency tests. She said only about 36 percent of the tests are similar, and ideally, the number would be closer to 50 percent.

However, on the math portions of the two tests, students did better because there is a 62 percent correlation. Of the 212 students who took both the tests, 47 failed one or both.

The board seemed to think these results were encouraging and that the district would be able to provide the extra help to students who do not pass the tests on the first try.

n Writing proficiencies. The results of tests required by the state for writing for 4th and 8th graders were presented to the board by Florey.

The students are given a topic to write about and their work is scored in four areas: ideas and content, organization, voice and conventions. A student can earn from 1 to 5 points in each area, with 3 a passing score.

Both the district’s 4th and 8th graders scored higher than their peers across the state in all areas.

However, the number of 4th grade students who passed went down compared to last year, Florey said.

“But at both the state and the district, the scores were not as high. The sites are looking at each student’s scores to identify those students who need extra help in writing,” Florey said.

District 8th grade students had the opposite scores. They scored higher than their peers across the board and also had higher scores than last year’s 8th grade students.

n Occupational education. Christie List-Sparks, director of the occupational education programs at Douglas High School, presented updated information on the program. She introduced the board members to the Careerware software that is used for middle school students to narrow their areas of interest. The software asks questions about jobs and asks students to check their preferences. The computer computes the results and lists areas the student might want to research for a career. The board members took the aptitude test and were impressed with the results.

List-Sparks also introduced three Douglas High School seniors, Sara Whitaker, Steve Wills and Andrea Derobertis, who told the board about their vocational student organizations’ activities and accomplishments.