Davis: Low scores are ‘a problem’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 26, 2001

As expected, scores for fourth and fifth-graders in the Natchez-Adams School District dropped on state testing this spring.

&uot;This just really validates what our exit skills and our discipline (plan) has already told us,&uot; said Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis.

Based on other test scores and the high number of discipline referrals at that age, the district has issues at that level that need to be addressed, Davis said.

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&uot;We know we’ve got a problem,&uot; he said. &uot;This is what we’re working to overcome.&uot;

These Natchez-Adams County students, along with their schoolmates in the first- to eighth-grades, took the Terra Nova norm reference test in May.

This was the second year the Mississippi Department of Education required this test for students across the state.

Because students take the Terra Nova for national comparison, it is likely the students were tested on material they had not been taught, officials said.

&uot;Kids may or may not have been taught the skills this test was going to test,&uot; Davis said.

This is because the test is designed to sample curricula in all 50 states. It is not designed to match the Mississippi statewide curriculum frameworks.

For this reason, Davis said he is more concerned about the results of the Mississippi curriculum criterion reference test (CRT) to be released in November.

&uot;Our emphasis is not on the (Terra Nova),&uot; Davis said. &uot;It’s not to say that it’s not important. The emphasis is (set) on the CRT.&uot;

The scores indicate student knowledge as compared to a 1996 sampling of students across the nation with 50 being the national median value.

Because of how the test is scored, positive or negative gains of about three to four points are needed to show significant gain or loss, Davis said.

In Natchez-Adams County, fourth and fifth-graders scored such a loss.

For example, fourth-grade scores dropped 3.7 points in reading to 41.9, 2.6 points in language to 42 and 3.7 points in math to 39.1.

Statewide fourth-graders scored 49.3, 51.2 and 49.4 in reading, language and math respectively.

Scores for fifth-graders in the Natchez-Adams School District dropped by 6.6 points to 38.7 in reading, 3.9 points to 40.6 in language and 2.8 points to 41.8 in math.

&uot;That’s our biggest worry but we knew this,&uot; Davis said.

Statewide fifth-graders scored 47.5 in reading, 49.4 in language and 49.3 in math.

Natchez’s sixth, seventh and eight graders scored about the same as last year.

The one exception was in first-grade where students increased scores by five to six points across the board.

Second-graders scored slightly higher in math scoring 46.1 – an increase of 3.3 points.

Unlike the Terra Nova, the Mississippi Curriculum test will be used for statewide accreditation and the measuring of a district’s success.

The state also released scores for its writing assessment test this week.

Eighty-five percent of the Natchez-Adams County fourth-graders and 82 percent of seventh graders scored at an average level or above.

Statewide 87 percent of fourth-graders and 89 percent of seventh-graders earned those scores.