No surprise: Student test scores down

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, September 14, 2022

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

Recent test results show that in the first time since testing began, third grade student proficiency in math declined. And for the first time in 30 years, reading scores also declined.

And while Davie students continue to score better than the state and national averages, numbers here are down, too.

Davie Schools Superintendent Jeff Wallace, and Erin Foil, director of student accountability, presented the state’s latest accountability report to members of the board of education earlier this month.

“We have many areas we need to work on, as in the past; however, last year’s data will indicate some significant changes … some like we’ve never experienced. This is not a unique situation for Davie County. It is across the state and across the nation,” Wallace said.

“I’ll guarantee that not one of you is surprised, with what we’ve been through in the last two to three years. The impact of school disruption, what families have gone through, it seriously hit our families and our student performance.”

Foil said the state accountability tests started in 1994, intended to keep every school system accountable to the needs of every student by measuring academic achievement and growth. The overall results include several variables, with the ability to track individual students and groups of students.

In the 2018-2019 school year, two of Davie’s schools did not meet expected growth, five met expectations and four exceeded expectations. The latest numbers, for the 2021-2022 school year, show that five schools did not meet expected growth, four met the standards and three exceeded standards.

“This will definitely be an area of focus this year,” Foil said. “We’ll work with schools to identify what we think is the cause. Then we work with the curriculum to determine the best way to move forward to improve that growth; and that is always our goal, to improve that growth.”

Wallace said the Davie school system fared better than most. Nearly half of schools statewide received a “D” or “F.”

The good news, Foil said, is that Davie students ranked ninth in the state for math scores in grade 6 and 10th in grade 7, and that high school scores ranked 16th.

Board member Wendy Horne said the schools again enforcing the attendance policy should help. “It’s got to be discouraging, but I don’t think any of us are going to overlook what people in the classroom have done over the past couple of years. I think the fact that we’re going to have a steady attendance policy this year, that’s going to make a huge difference.”

Wallace agreed.

“We have a strong structure to stand on to find those deficiencies and address them relatively quickly,” he said.

Wallace pointed out that students entering kindergarten this year have lived half their lives with Covid restrictions. As the school year began, some students had never seen a cafeteria with tables and chairs.

“I commend our staff, our kids, our parents. I’m very proud of our schools. We’ve got things we need to work on, we always do, but there are special things we are going to target. I have extreme confidence.”

A total of 5,950 students were in the school system, slightly lower than predictions but will likely increase, Wallace said. “It feels better, almost like normal.”

In early September, 21 students had been diagnosed with Covid, six staff members. There are not clusters or patterns. “It’s just scattered around our schools,” Wallace said.

A preliminary opinion from a demographer hired by the towns, county and school system said that the large number of houses proposed to be built shouldn’t have an immediate impact on the school system.

“He said he doesn’t expect an immediate explosion (of students) because the houses won’t all be built out at once, or in the next two years.”

Wallace said the system has the ability to change district lines in coming years if student growth in one area exceeds capacity of that district.

Finance Director Clay Harris and his staff accepted a certificate of excellence from the Assocation of School Business Officials.