McLaurin teachers, principal tackle test scores

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Test scores, test scores, test scores &045; they have been talked about constantly, but what do schools really use them for?

McLaurin Elementary School Principal Karen Tutor has used the test scores &045; and the tests themselves &045; to shape many things that are done at McLaurin including what the teachers are teaching to students.

&uot;Test scores give us a good place to jump start from,&uot; Tutor said &045; otherwise the school would have to start from scratch.

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McLaurin, like other schools, received the scores before classes started this year. Tutor, who is in her first year at the Natchez elementary school, took those scores and sat down with her teachers to find out what needed work.

First, Tutor and teachers determined what percentage of students on each grade level passed each subject as well as each skill tested in each subject. She and teachers compared these to the year before.

Teachers also were given individual analyses of how the students in their classes performed in each subject and skill.

The teachers could then compare individual scores to that of the grade level as a whole. This will help teachers not only identify areas in which the children need help but also areas in

which teachers needs to evaluate themselves, Tutor said. Teachers might find a new way to teach the skill or ask help from a fellow teacher in that skill area. Tutor and the teachers also compared these scores to those from the year before.

About two weeks ago, the teachers also received each child’s individual scores for the subject areas and skills. Now, the teachers can see where a child has a deficiency and address it specifically.

&uot;We’re not just looking at deficiencies, but we’re teaching for the next grade level,&uot; Tutor said. &uot;If no child is truly left behind, our goal has got to be for every child to learn everything at this grade level.&uot;

School scores, teacher scores, students’ scores &045; &uot;all the little parts add up to doing your job,&uot; Tutor said.

Sounds like plenty work &045; working on the grade level, teacher and individual child deficiencies &045; but Tutor said the teachers are not alone.

In second and third grade, teachers have assistants. In fourth grade, an assistant floats between all classes.

In fifth and sixth grade, the students now change classes so each teacher can focus specifically on one subject area.

Also, the school made a new position this year &045; curriculum specialist.

Former fourth-grade teacher Alice Morrison now provides help to all teachers with their lessons, curriculum and classroom management.

&uot;My main focus is student achievement,&uot; Morrison said.

This is just one way McLaurin is focusing in on curriculum.

&uot;Tying these scores back to instruction is what makes these scores powerful,&uot; Tutor said. &uot;Align the curriculum so now we know we are teaching the frameworks.

&uot;We know what the state requires of us, we know what No Child Left Behind expects from us, what we do has to fit into that.&uot;

Now, the teachers take the benchmarks the students must pass and come up with a list of what they are going to teach each nine weeks.

&uot;Test scores aren’t running what we do Š they are giving us a measuring stick of where we are and where we want to be,&uot; Tutor said.

All of this work with test scores and curriculum and tests and benchmarks is for the school to work toward the No Child Left Behind standards.

The ultimate goal, as set by this federal standard, is for all students to be at proficiency level by 2014.

Tutor welcomes the accountability as something schools need.

&uot;I don’t think it’s a bad thing,&uot; Tutor said. &uot;I don’t mind accountability. It’s time.&uot;

Tutor said her role as administrator is to make sure the teachers have everything they need to teach the necessary skills to the students.

&uot;I have to make sure they have what they need,&uot; Tutor said.

She said administrators should also make sure these teachers have the training they need and that discipline problems that are beyond their control are taken care of for them.

But these &uot;changes&uot; or sets of expectations Tutor has set are not just about changing one thing but are expectations that will trickle down to other areas.

&uot;There is a direct correlation between good instruction and teachers who don’t have classroom problems,&uot; Tutor said.

That is just one way what teachers do to change instruction can affect other areas at school, she said.

Tutor is ready to move McLaurin Elementary forward, and she said she knows the school will improve from its Level 2 status from last year’s test scores.

&uot;I came here knowing McLaurin was a Level 1 school (in their pilot year),&uot; Tutor said.

&uot;I know what they did to improve that. I came from a Level 5 school. I know what has to happen to be a superior performing (Level 5) school.&uot;

Tutor said she is not saying, &uot;do this or this or this&uot; but instead is letting everyone know the expectations and then letting the teacher decide how the individual classroom does that.

&uot;I believe teachers have to be decision makers in this process,&uot; Tutor said.

And, the students are being rewarded for their efforts, just another way to encourage students to improve test scores.

Friday, two students from each classroom were chosen by their teacher to have ice cream at &uot;Scoop on the Lawn.&uot;

Another new program called &uot;Starbucks&uot; recognizes students who excel in attendance, attitude and academics. Teachers submit these students’ names to the office, and three winners are drawn from each grade level each week to choose a prize from a huge cabinet of prizes down the main hall.

All of these things together are just a &uot;building

process,&uot; as Morrison says, all building toward the ultimate goal of improvement.