SAFEGUARDS ENSURE FAIRNESS OF STUDENT ACCOUNTABILITY STANDARDS
"One test on one day" has been the mantra used by some opposed to the state's end-of-grade tests and their use for student promotion. Unfortunately, this misguided slogan has led many parents and educators to believe that a student's promotion hinges solely on their test performance that day. Safeguards built into statewide Student Accountability Standards are designed to prevent this scenario from happening.
This year's fifth graders are the first group of students affected by new state promotion standards. Next year, third and eighth grade students will have to demonstrate they have the skills necessary to succeed at the next grade levels.
"It's important for students, parents and educators to know that there are a number of safeguards built into the standards to ensure that we don't judge a child's performance by only one test on one day," said Dr. Henry Johnson, associate superintendent for Instructional and Accountability Services, at the NC Department of Public Instruction.
The first safeguard exists in how the test scores are used. Every test, no matter who develops it, has a certain potential for error. Because of this, the Department of Public Instruction incorporates a range of scores that are considered grade level scores for each student. This range is similar to the way that results of public opinion polls are reported.
Fifth grade students whose scores do not fall into this spectrum, have the opportunity for a re-test to ensure that they did not just experience a bad testing day. If the student's parent requests their child skip the re-test, then the student will immediately begin focused intervention. "Teachers know the strengths and weaknesses of their students. Past test performance and classroom work during the year are used to tailor intervention strategies to help the student overcome his or her academic deficiencies," Johnson said.
After the first re-test, students can take the end-of-grade test one more time. Even if a student does not reach grade level during the second re-testing opportunity, that does not mean that he or she is automatically retained. "The policy enables a teacher and/or parent to request a review of the student's situation after the first or second retest," Johnson said.
The review, which is held before a panel of practicing educators who are not from the student's school, allows the student's teachers and parents to present documentation of the student's learning and skill level. Documentation could include other test results and samples of the student's school work in addition to other materials. Parents have the right to attend the review session and present information on their child's behalf but they are not voting members of the review panel. The review panel then considers the information provided and makes a recommendation to the student's principal as to whether that child should be promoted or retained.
Ultimately, it is the principal who makes the final decision to promote or retain a student.
The Student Accountability Standards emphasize identifying struggling students and providing them with the intervention they need in order to succeed. In fact, focused intervention and assistance to students who are not scoring at grade level are also a safeguard. End-of-grade tests are a mechanism to alert teachers and parents that a child may not be ready to handle next year's school work. Passing students along who are not prepared to succeed cheats them of their education. This additional help provides students with an opportunity to be better prepared for the next grade.
"Our goal is for every child to be prepared for success at the next grade level. We are failing our children if we don't do everything we possibly can to ensure that they have the academic foundation they need to succeed," Johnson said.
For more information on the Standards, please visit the Department of Public Instruction's Web site, www.ncpublicschools.org, or contact your local principal.
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.