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

The State released test results earlier today that may have appeared to be lower than you were anticipating, but please do not be alarmed.  The drop in test proficiency scores throughout North Carolina was expected.  This does not mean that the students have fallen behind.  It simply means the demands of the assessments have changed . . . in fact, they have been raised to a much more demanding level.
I want to assure you that our students did not lose ground in their learning last year.  Students continued to grow academically, however, the tougher achievement standards will show fewer students meeting the proficiency level.  Also, I want to emphasize that in this transition year, these scores will not affect students’ grades or current placement.
Change is never easy, but these new assessments, and the increase in rigor, will be advantageous to our students and will give us a clearer picture of how well they are prepared to enter college and the work force.  We are pleased with the progress of our students and expect continued success in the coming months and years.