Results from a new test given to students enrolled in the Marietta School District show a majority of eighth graders’ skill sets diminished over the course of the year — from fall 2013 to spring 2014. One administrator said apathy may be to blame for the decline in growth as students get older and move through the school system.
Dayton Hibbs, the district’s associate superintendent, said students may be apathetic toward school or the test itself, which is why they show less growth than other grades.
Teachers will be looking into interpretations of the results to determine how to better the scores when students are tested again this year, Hibbs said.
“When your spring (test scores) are lower than fall (test scores) — that is bad,” said Marietta school board member Jill Mutimer.
The Measures of Academic Progress test was given to students from grades kindergarten to eighth grade in August 2013 and again in May 2014 to measure how much they learned over that school year, Hibbs said.
This test showed growth in lower level grades, but eighth grade struggled to grow over the course of the year.
“It’s a measure of student growth,” Hibbs said. “Their scores are used to predict the future growth of students.”
The scores were presented to the Marietta school board at its Friday meeting.
Hibbs said the score a student gets at the beginning of the year is compared to a group of similar students across the nation.
“If a student gets a certain score, then I can say, on average, this is the growth they can make,” Hibbs said.
Then the test is administered again at the end of the school year to check if the student grew as much as was projected.
The test cost $101,000, according to the school system’s budget.
This was the first year the test was administered in Marietta, so Hibbs said the information could be used to compare students between grades.
“There are 5 million kids assessed annually, so this gives us a good idea of our position,” Hibbs said.
Marietta’s results show as the children get older, they do not perform as well on the tests. For instance, in the tests judging growth in math skills, 80 percent of kindergarteners meet expectations, but only 59 percent of eighth graders meet expectations.
The test results show an even bigger gap between grades in test results for reading.
For reading, a majority of eighth grade students didn’t meet their expectation of growth. Only 49 percent of the 504 students tested learned at a rate considered normal as compared to their peers during the year.
The highest-achieving grade level in the test was kindergarten, which had 72 percent of its students growing at the projected rate over the course of last school year.
“We need to look at that and think about what’s going on with students going from elementary school to middle school and to eighth grade,” said Irene Berens, vice chairwoman of the board.
How the test
According to the results, all grades exceeded the growth rates they were expected to achieve over the year.
Kindergarteners scored the highest, with 80 percent of the 769 students who were tested meeting the projected growth rate in math over the course of the last school year.
The test results show the majority of students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade learned more in the subject of math by more than they were expected to, Hibbs said.
Overall, the growth in reading was at a much lower rate than the growth in math for every grade level, according to the results. In math, the amount of students meeting expectations ranged from 80 percent for kindergarteners to 59 percent for eighth grade. In reading, the amount of students meeting expectations ranged from 72 percent of kindergarteners to 49 percent of eighth graders.
Hibbs said the test results are helpful because they allow the school board to see the impact of certain factors on a student’s learning ability.
“It gives us a window into teacher quality, and I say that in support of teachers,” Hibbs said.
Hibbs added the test will show the impact of taking a break from school in the summer.
Mutimer added schools should use the information the test provides but focus on the statewide education standards.
“This chart is excellent, but while you also want to exceed the national average of growth, you still need to meet the standards,” Mutimer said.