Students’ scores continue to fall

Published 12:14 am Friday, August 17, 2007

NATCHEZ — Test scores of Natchez-Adams school children have dropped consistently as the children have progressed in grade level for the last five years.

In 2001, 67 percent of the second-grade class scored proficient and above — the highest rankings — in reading on the state’s Mississippi Curriculum Test. Those same students were eighth-graders last spring, and only 35 percent scored proficient or above in the same category. On the state level 52 percent of the eighth graders scored proficient and above.

For a list of this year’s test scores, including a comparison with last year’s scores and the statewide average download this pdf. 2007 Test scores

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The range is similar for the each grade level in language and math as well.

The state publicly released preliminary scores from the 2007 MCT and Subject Area Tests today.

And though the trend is a negative one over a five-year span, no grade level or subject area fluctuated much compared to last year.

Natchez students are approximately 10 percentage points below statewide numbers in nearly every category for 2007. In some cases the gap is larger.

A number of factors go into every set of test scores, Superintendent Anthony Morris said, but he isn’t happy with overall picture.

“(The scores) do concern us tremendously,” he said. “It worries us here and it’s a state worry in general.”

Morris said scores typically drop as students go up grade to grade across the state.

“The content gets harder,” Morris said. “We are trying to evaluate basically the depth of knowledge from the way the curriculum is taught.”

The district has hired a new central office level administrator to help key in on some of the weaknesses that contribute to the falling scores, Morris said.

Other factors that contribute to the drop include age and parent involvement.

Students in fifth- through sixth-grades are often less interested in schoolwork. Extracurricular activities take up much of their time, Morris said.

And in turn, parents are not as involved in things like checking homework and following up on academics.

Morris said parents must continue to stay involved as their children get older, making sure students are attending tutoring and special programs offered by the schools.

Morgantown Elementary Principal Fred Marsalis said one of his goals for the coming year is to find ways to address the students who did well in second- through fourth-grade but may begin to drop academically in fifth grade and beyond.

At Morgantown, 71 percent of fifth graders and 66 percent of seventh graders scored proficient and above in reading the spring tests.

But in language and math the scores were much lower.

Only 45 percent of the fifth graders scored proficient or above in reading, compared to 86 percent statewide. In math, that number was 46 percent locally, 72 percent statewide.

In sixth grade, the number was 56 percent in reading and 46 in math.

“Our students were either great or at the bottom,” Marsalis said. “The bell curve didn’t exist.”

Marsalis said his school would focus on improving the scores of the students in the middle.

Reading coaches, teacher assistants and tutors are already in place at the school, and Marsalis said he thinks the right plan is in motion.

“My personal opinion is we are holding our own,” he said. “Our teachers are doing a really good job. We still have got to get our parents involved with our children.

“We are not satisfied, but we don’t feel bad. We are proud of our students who did great.”

Other score comparisons show:

4Second-grade scores went down from the previous year in every subject. They dropped the most in language, 13 percentage points.

4Fourth-grade scores improved in nearly every category, jumping up 13 percentage points in reading and up 7 points in language. Math scores were down 1 percentage point in fourth grade.

4Fifth-grade scores were down across the board, dropping 16 percentage points in language.

4Seventh-grade scores went up slightly in language and math, but fell 1 percentage point in reading. The scores are still roughly 20 percentage points below the state numbers.

4Eighth-grade scores went down 2 percentage points in reading and up 8 and 3 in language and math, respectively. Eighth-grade scores statewide are also roughly 20 percentage points higher than Natchez scores.

Some middle school and all high school students take Subject Area Tests. Scores in the Algebra I test went up 7.3 percentage points this year. U.S. history and Biology I dropped slightly. And English II Multiple Choice scores were 6 percentage points lower than last year.

Morris said high school students have always struggled on the English portion of the test because it involves reading long passages and comprehending the materials.

“Some students have trouble recalling that information, retaining it is hard,” he said.

The scores released today are not final. Final numbers, Average Yearly Progress reports and school levels will be released in approximately a month.