Terranova scores on rebound
Elementary and middle school TerraNova scores rebounded slightly after poor scores last year and the high school students maintained their high scores.
Results of the TerraNova tests, taken by the 4th, 8th, and 10th grade students in the fall, were presented to the Douglas County School Board Feb. 8.
Assistant superintendent of assessments Janice Florey said the district’s 1998 scores have been adjusted to reflect the correction made by McGraw-Hill after schools across the nation complained of lower-than-average scores.
However, she said Nevada is still asking for further study of those scores.
“The test directors across the state still feel even though McGraw-Hill admitted there were problems in scoring, there was only a small upward movement. We have suggested they redo the equating study because it is still out of whack with our ’96 and ’97 data,” Florey said.
In an equating study, students take both forms of the test at the same time to better line up the levels of difficulty.
Florey said there are two versions of the test, referred to as A and B forms. In 1996 and ’97, and again in 1999, the Nevada students took form A of the test.
However, the 1999 scores continued the downward trend started last year in Douglas County.
n Elementary schools. The 4th grade students across the district earned higher scores after taking the test in fall 1999 than the state average except in math and spelling.
Fourth grade students this year did slightly worse overall compared with the Douglas County 4th grade students who took the test last year. The students did better in language and spelling, but dropped in reading, math and science.
Florey said the district was concerned with the eight-point drop in math scores since last year.
“We are particularly concerned about our 4th grade students’ math performance. In the past, math has been one of our strengths. We are aggressively looking at our data to see if we can really nail down which populations are in need of additional work in math,” she said.
On the other side of the coin, spelling scores, which traditionally have been weak, climbed slightly from 44 to 46 points.
“We are pleased to see spelling rebound and we hope this is due to the new spelling program,” Florey said.
Minden Elementary School improved after surprisingly low scores last year. Principal Klaire Pirtle said it is impossible to compare the test scores because they are the result of different classes, but said the students practiced test-taking skills last year and teachers zeroed-in on areas of concern.
“This year, we went up in everything, but stayed the same in science and spelling. Everything was above the district average,” Pirtle said.
She said the school focused on reading and language after receiving scores of 61 in reading and 58 in vocabulary. This year the school’s scores were 66 in reading and 68 in vocabulary.
Implementing reading camps and a district-wide spelling program should improve those scores more next year, Pirtle said.
“This year, we’re focusing on language conventions. It’s interesting we came up so much in reading and language, but our writing proficiency scores aren’t as strong as before,” she said.
– Secondary schools. The 8th grade scores saw a small increase overall and a jump in reading and language, while math and spelling went up one point and science stayed the same.
Again, spelling was the low point – the only area in which Douglas County middle schoolers fell below tthe state average, but only by one point. In all other areas, the students scored at least nine points higher than the state average.
Douglas County high school students balanced out with the same composite score, 65, as last year. Reading, science and language went down one or two points while math and spelling increased slightly. Again, spelling was the low point, gaining only two points above the state average while students maintained scores at least eight points above the state in all other areas.
Florey said she thinks older students take the test more seriously than before.
“I think the students took the test very seriously. It was in their best interest to show their true potential because that might show us we need to look at ways of doing some sort of intervention in place of an elective class,” she said.
Douglas High School Principal Bev Jeans said the school takes the test seriously and teachers prepare students as soon as school starts.
“They just have six weeks after school starts, so really, it is testing what they are learning in the middle schools, and they do a good job. But the teachers talk a lot about it and how important it is. They do a lot of reviewing and test taking strategies,” Jeans said.
She said the school is more focused on the proficiency tests and the new achievement level tests developed to measure growth in a competency-based system.
The TerraNova is important in that it can be used to predict the performance on those tests, Jeans said.
She said the competency system will be reflected in higher scores on all standardized tests as it continues to be implemented.
“The problem is everyone goes out there with the same curriculum and materials, but everyone may have a different focus. But with the competencies coming in now, I say it is like we are all in wagons heading West and now all our wagon trains are on the same trail. I really do see it making a difference. For kids who stay in our district for years, I think we will see their scores go up,” Jeans said.