CHAPEL HILL- Thursday’s release of the state Common Core Standard test results shows areas in which Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools need improvement, but officials say that’s due in part to the fundamental nature of the curriculum changes.
“The demands on students are changing. There’s a lot more writing, there’s a lot more deep reading of the text, so it is not this sort of superficial ‘glean a few things and keep moving,’” says Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s Executive Director of Testing and Program Evaluation, Diane Villwock. She says the new standards require students to adopt a different style of learning to master the material.
“We’re writing in mathematics, we’re writing in science, we’re writing in social studies. People have to have evidence to support their position. It’s a much more rigorous, higher-order thinking skills kind of requirement,” says Vilwock.
She notes that the amount of material covered in the early grades has changed to allow a more in-depth understanding of key concepts.
“From [kindergarten through fourth grade], students are learning basics at a very deep level, so if you’re subtracting, you have to be able to explain why you subtracted, you have to have the numeric understanding behind that, so K-4 is much less content, actually.”
She says once the children reach grades five, six, and seven, the content level increases because they have a foundation on which to build.
North Carolina adopted the Common Core Standards in 2010. The 2012-2013 school year was the first in which the teachers, students, and parents saw them fully implemented in the classroom.
Vilwock says teachers were well prepared for the changes, but nonetheless the district is continuing to work to make sure the transition process is smooth.
“The district has hired a firm out of the University of Pittsburgh called the Institute for Learning and they’ve been working with us last eyar and into this year teaching teachers how to have the instructional methodology that they need.”
The district met the majority of the state and federal proficiency expectations, but economically disadvantaged high school students struggled to meet many of the testing goals.
Officials warn against jumping to conclusions as this is the first year students have been tested using the new standards. Instead, they say this data will form the baseline for comparisons in coming years.
Letter from the Superintendent Regarding Test Results for 2012-13
CHAPEL HILL – Gov. Pat McCrory is calling for the North Carolina State Board of Education to re-examine its approach to standardized testing—and local school officials are also weighing in on how much might be too much.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Executive Director of Testing and Program Evaluation Diane Villwock says each school is given a series of standardized tests as required by the federal government. These include reading, math, and science for third through eighth grade, along with one test for each of those subjects in high school.
“This year for the first time, the state added the Measures of Student Learning,” she says. “That was a large increase in a number of tests. So, for the Chapel Hill district, we went from handling 10,000 exams a year ago to 26,000 this year.”
According to a report from WRAL, 30 new tests were given to public school students in grades four through 12 this past school year, bringing the total number of standardized tests to 194. McCrory says teachers should be given more time to teach, not preparing students for “test after test.”
But Villwock says The Measures of Student Learning, or MSL’s, are being used in place of, not in addition to, comprehensive final exams for high schools.
“For example, with chemistry, they used to have a final exam, and now we’re using a state version rather than a district version,” Villwock says.
Villwock says the increase in the number of tests for students is at the middle school level, where comprehensive final exams previously didn’t exist.
“For them, it felt like much more of an add-on than it felt like at the high school,” she says.
With the new system in place, Villwock says McCrory’s opinion should be taken into consideration, but it’s too early to make any definitive conclusions.
“I don’t disagree that we need to look at this,” he says. “Anytime you do something large and new, it needs deep review. If he’s looking at this in the context of kids being given too many tests, perhaps I believe that at middle school, but I don’t believe it at high school.”
Villwock says she’s concerned with the quality of the MSLs more than the quantity.
“We need to get to where teachers look at those as a good representation of their content,” she says. “I think that part’s really important.”
Although the requirement for testing comes from the federal level, Villwock says the tests are made and reviewed by teachers and curriculum experts.http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/chccs-not-opposed-to-current-form-of-testing