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Test results give educators clear picture

Merrie Leininger

As the parents of all incoming juniors know, the results of the achievement level tests have been complied so the school district has a clear picture of how the first class that will be held to a higher academic standard is doing.

Tuesday night, the school board heard about those test results and seemed relieved and confident.

Each student – including special education and English as a second language students – from the 3rd grade up must take these tests every year through the 9th grade. Ninth graders who passed the tests will no longer have to take them. The juniors are the first students who will have to pass thereading, language, math and science tests to graduate.

Highlights of Tuesday’s report included the news that 88 percent of the Douglas County juniors have passed the basic math test. That means only 66 students still have to pass the test.

However, fewer students have been able to pass the integrated I math test. That test is only given to students who have taken integrated I math. Out of the 562 juniors in the county, 154 still haven’t passed that test.

The numbers go down from there. County-wide, 163 students have to pass the reading test; 174 students still have to pass the language test; and 237 students still have to pass the science test.

It seems science is the major stumbling block. Superintendent Pendery Clark said that is because the school district didn’t previously require the three facets – life sciences, physical sciences and earth sciences – that are included in the test. Students take the science ALT beginning in 7th grade.

Many students who failed the science test were invited to a 3-week summer workshop, but only 6 students attended and four passed the test at the end of that workshop.

All the board members agreed that remediation is necessary to ensure students graduate. Clark said the district would not hold back students who didn’t pass the science tests because of the lack of planning on the district’s part.

“If we have a large number who haven’t had the opportunity to take the classes, we will adjust. One thing we will not do, we will not let students not graduate because of the (science) ALT scores,” Clark said. “The one we are most concerned about is science. We weren’t surprised because we didn’t have that curriculum in place.”

Students who took part in other interventions such as reading camps and Saturday schools increased their scores, if they didn’t pass the tests.

“Our reading camp kids made a 25-point jump. They made up a lot of ground in that experience,” said Janice Florey, who complied the data. “Some kids made 20-point gains. They did extremely well. Some kids wouldn’t have passed without that program.”

A group of 50 3rd grade students who took part in the reading camp had an average score of 159 points on the reading test before the camp and 184 after. The target score for 3rd graders at the end of the year was 196.

The 39 Carson Valley Middle School students who took part in a Saturday school jumped in reading from a 213 to a 220, although they did not meet the target score of 228. The 23 students who retook the math test after Saturday school jumped from a 215 to a 222. The target score was 232.

Cris Etchegoyhen said interventions were the key. She said the reading camps would be able to help students who are behind four grade levels catch up in two years.

Board member Cheri Johnson said this data encouraged her, despite the naysayers.

“In the long run, (all the complaints) are going to be behind us. Some of us maybe are going to have to fall on swords, but we are doing everything we can do to intervene with these kids. It is going to be a really exciting time in the next two years,” Johnson said.

“It’s even more exciting as a parent of a 2002 student. I see him much more conscientious about school than I was as a student,” said board member Michele Lewis.

n In other agenda items. The board approved the resignations of Carson Valley Middle School Vice Principal John Carlson, who has accepted a job with the Washoe County School District, and Howard Bennett, who is retiring. Clark said the positions will probably be filled with interim principals because it is too late in the summer to get a good pool of candidates.

n Expulsions. Clark went over the yearly list of expulsions and said the numbers are much lower than in previous years. There was a total of 18 expulsions last year for all schools, down five from the 23 expulsions the year before. One student was expelled for having a knife on campus, zero for other weapons, four were drug-related, three were alcohol-related, six were for battery and four were habitual discipline problems.