NORTH CAROLINA STUDENTS GEAR UP FOR END-OF-SCHOOL TESTING
Students from the third grade through high school are preparing to take part in North Carolina's statewide testing program over the next few weeks. The end-of-grade tests in elementary and middle school and the end-of-course tests in high school are designed to measure students' mastery of the curriculum taught in North Carolina classrooms. These tests are the backbone of the state's accountability program.
School districts give the end-of-grade tests during the last three weeks of the school year. Students in high school take the end-of-course tests in the final 10 days of the course, or the final five days for block schedule courses. Both the end-of-grade and end-of-course tests are multiple-choice.
The end-of-grade tests in mathematics computation and applications, and reading comprehension take approximately two hours. High school students take end-of-course tests when they are enrolled in the following courses: Algebra I and II; biology; chemistry; Economic, Legal and Political Systems; English I; geometry; physical science; physics; and United States history. The state tests are linked to the North Carolina curriculum and developed by classroom teachers. Mathematics end-of-course tests take about two hours and 20 minutes to complete. Non-mathematics end-of-course tests take less than two hours to complete.
State end-of-the-year tests are used in several ways. Student performance on the tests is used in the ABCs of Public Education accountability model, which determines whether or not individual schools have met their goals for student achievement growth. School-by-school results will be released in August this year. Based on these results, teachers and other educators are eligible for financial bonuses and some schools may receive state and local assistance to try to improve their performance. Last year, 81.2 percent of all schools met either expected or exemplary growth/gain standards, based on test performance. Thirteen schools were identified as low performing.
The state tests also are used to assess how well individual students have mastered he material for a particular course or for their grade level. New Student Accountability Standards, adopted in the spring of 1999, will use the tests at grades three, five and eight as gateways to help determine whether students should be promoted to the next grade. The new Student Accountability Standards go into effect for fifth graders in 2000-01. Third and eighth graders will be held to this standard for the first time in 2001-02. The final decision on student promotions rests with the school principal.
"North Carolina's accountability program is recognized nationally for its thoroughness," according to State Superintendent Mike Ward. "I want to encourage every student to do his or her best this spring on their tests."
Ward said that encouraging children to read is one key way that parents and other adults can help children prepare to do well on state tests. Children need to be encouraged to read more, and they need parents and other adults to set a strong positive example by being readers themselves. Information collected from the end-of-grade tests shows that children who read more outside of school score higher on tests and are better learners. Parents and guardians should ask their child's teacher how they can help their child become a better reader.
At the end of the school year, parents are given reports on each child's performance on the state tests. Student performance is reported by achievement levels. Level I performance indicates insufficient mastery. Level II is inconsistent mastery. Level III is consistent mastery, showing that the student is performing at grade level. Level IV is superior mastery. Students performing at or above Level III are considered at or above grade level.
Other state tests not given at the end of the school year include the writing tests at grades four and seven, the computer skills competency test given to eighth graders, the high school comprehensive test administered to tenth graders, and the English II essay test. A high school exit exam is under development and will be given to eleventh graders for the first time in the spring of 2002. Students will be required to pass the high school exit exam for graduation in 2003 and later.
For additional information on the tests that students will be taking during the next few weeks, contact your local principal or teachers or the testing director in your local school district's central office. Additional information on the state's testing program also can be obtained at the DPI web site, http://www.dpi.state.nc.us.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.