Test results released; math scores improve

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Math scores went up across the board while reading and language scores held fairly steady, based on last year&8217;s state test results released to the public today.

Schools are also ranked on a 1-5 level scale, but those numbers aren&8217;t final and won&8217;t be released by the Natchez-Adams schools until the end of the month.

&8220;We are still trying to digest all the information,&8221; Superintendent Anthony Morris said Wednesday. &8220;Everything right now is still preliminary.&8221;

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But the preliminary results are enough for teachers, administrators and students at Robert Lewis Middle School to feel good about the math work they did last year.

The percentage of seventh-graders scoring proficient or above on the test rose nine points. The eighth-grade percentage went up eight points. Students can score minimal, basic, proficient or advanced on the test.

&8220;Math is probably the weakest area across the nation,&8221; RLMS Principal Bettye Bell said. &8220;When you see any growth in math that says a lot about the students and the teaching going on in the building.&8221;

RLMS has been in school improvement for two years based on test scores, and saw math scores drop in the 2004-2005 year.

Improving math scores was a school goal this year, Bell said. Teachers incorporated math into every class, including reading and language. They used hands-on materials and remediation techniques through in-school tutorials to improve scores.

&8220;We are making another commitment this year,&8221; Bell said. &8220;And we need involvement and engagement from the community in the classroom all the time.&8221;

Next, Bell wants to see reading and language scores go up, but that work has to start in the lower grades, Morris said.

Students in kindergarten through third-grade now participate in a new reading program, Reading First, that administrators hope will boost scores in the coming years.

Only second- and sixth-graders saw an increase in the percentage scoring proficient or above this year. District-wide reading scores are an average 16.4 points below the state average.

&8220;It&8217;s going to take a while for (improvement) to show up through all the grades,&8221; Morris said.

&8220;The concentration with reading in the lower grades hopefully will pay off tremendously for us as those children progress.&8221;

And though the district is still analyzing results to draw conclusions about where they are succeeding and failing, Morris said scores were not as high as he&8217;d like.

&8220;We certainly would have liked for it to be better,&8221; he said.

&8220;But with the magnitude of what we had to deal with with Katrina, I think we did do quite well under those circumstances.&8221;

The district absorbed around 500 evacuee students overnight after Katrina hit, and most administrators predicted test scores would fall as a result.

&8220;It was a major impact,&8221; Morris said. &8220;It just pulled us away from everything to deal with that issue. We were not able to do professional development we would have liked to do.&8221;

Morris said the math improvements were worth celebrating, but there is still work to be done.

&8220;There is some excitement,&8221; he said. &8220;But there&8217;s a little bit of disappointment too. When you wonder what you could have done had it not been for Katrina. It still just blows my mind what an impact it had on us.&8221;

The state also released scores for the Subject Area Testing Program, tests taken by middle school and high school students.

The percentage passing the Algebra I test dropped 9.1 points from last year. Biology dropped .2 percentage points. U.S. History improved 1.7 points and English II multiple Choice rose 1.8 percentage points. The percentage passing the English II writing assessment went up 13.7 percent.