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State proficiency test scores up

The results are in, and the statistics show improvement.

Fourth- and sixth-grade students in Ohio's public school districts fared better on the 2002 proficiency tests than their counterparts did one year ago, according to information released earlier this month from the Ohio Department of Education.

Statewide, fourth-graders showed an eight-point jump in both reading and science. Fourth-graders topped last year's results by six percent in citizenship, three points in math and one point in writing.

Sixth-graders in Ohio jumped ahead five percentage points in writing, three in citizenship and one point in math, while maintaining progress in writing and science.

"Fourth-graders and their teachers from kindergarten through grade four did a great job in focusing on what is expected and learning it," said Susan Tave Zelman, superintendent of public instruction. "Their results are very impressive, and I hope parents and community members will join me in thanking them for meeting the challenge of proficiency tests."

Locally,

Fairland schools posted the most impressive figures for fourth-grade

students.

The test examined skills in reading, writing, math,

citizenship and science.

The percentage of Fairland fourth-graders passing each portion of the test were 88, 93, 91, 87 and 90 percents, respectively.

Fairland East Elementary administrative assistant Sandy Joseph credited the scores to a variety of factors, including strong community support, well-prepared teachers and a curriculum that is set to state standards.

"We have a very structured curriculum, and very

knowledgeable teachers," Joseph said. "They're dedicated, they look at the materials they use and compare and make sure they have all they need to teach to the state outcomes."

Joseph said the daily classes were strongly supplemented with the after school mall program, which actively involves all of the district's fourth grade teachers, as well as science fairs, music programs and other educational activities.

She said Fairland parents also had a hand in the system's success.

"Parents are interested in their children's education. You can see it, it's obvious,"Joseph said.

In the Ironton City Schools, those figures were 50, 88, 84, 69, and 83 percent, respectively.

In the Chesapeake Schools, the percentages were 45, 82, 73, 66, and 83, respectively.

Among

Dawson-Bryant fourth graders, the percentages were 89, 86, 64, 62, and 69, respectively.

Among Rock Hill fourth graders, the percentages were 32, 58, 57, 57, and 52, respectively.

Among South Point fourth graders, the percentages were 51, 85, 69, 74, and 81, respectively.

And among Symmes Valley Fourth graders, the percentages were

59, 85, 71, 82, and 75, respectively.

Symmes Valley Superintendent Tom Ben credited his district's good showing to good students, and teachers who put forth an extra effort. He also credited changes made to the curriculum.

"We're working within our curriculum to develop it to new state standards. We look at a subject, and then, within each year and each level, we develop an internal system or program on what is taught, and when, and how," Ben said. "And we have a lot of after- school work, and we're beginning to see the benefits of that."

Still, Ben said no one at Symmes Valley is resting on their laurels.

"We feel we've always had great potential here," Ben said. "We have a great community and kids we've always been proud of. But we're not going to sit back and thumb our lapels. While we're always glad to see good scores, it's a continuing process. We're going to enjoy the moment and then work for even better things next year."

Fourth-graders who have not achieved a proficient score in reading will have an additional opportunity to take the test in July 2002.

Mitchell Chester, assistant superintendent of ODE's Office of Assessment, also pointed out that this fourth-grade class is the first group whose teachers, kindergarten through fourth grade, worked to prepare students for the Fourth-Grade Reading Guarantee.

The guarantee means that if a student is not a proficient reader by the end of fourth grade a decision will be made by parents, the reading teacher and principal to move the student to fifth grade either with or without additional help, or to retain the student in fourth grade.

Among sixth graders, with writing, reading, math, citizenship and science tested,

the percentage of Fairland students passing each part of the test were 95, 59, 84, 74, and 73.

Ironton City School sixth graders performed better than their fourth grade counterparts. Ninety five percent of the city schools' sixth graders passed the writing portion of the test. Reading, math, science and citizenship garnered percentages of 57, 77, 78 and 53, respectively.

"I'm pleased our kids are showing improvement,"Ironton Superintendent Stephan Kingery said. "I'm proud of the teachers and students. They've worked hard and this hard work is beginning to pay off."

Kingery said the emphasis is placed on teaching to proficiency standards, and on intervention for students who are having trouble.

Kingery also said district officials concentrated on improving math and science scores. Those two subjects were identified as weak areas in previous years.

Again, testing skills in writing, reading, math, citizenship and science, Chesapeake sixth graders accumulated percentages of 93, 70, 65, 60, and 51, respectively.

Among Dawson-Bryant sixth graders, those percentages were 79, 33, 64, 46, and 31, respectively.

were 84, 50, 41, 59, and 56, respectively.

Among South Point sixth graders, the percentages passing each part of the test were

87, 54, 50, 70, and 55, respectively.

And among Symmes Valley sixth graders, the percentages passing each part of the test were 89, 79, 95, 79, and 83, respectively.

When compared to the prior year, statewide sixth-grade results are increasing slightly or remaining stable.

Chester noted that when comparing the achievement of these same students in 2000 as fourth-graders, they are scoring 10 percentage points or higher two years later in mathematics, science, citizenship and writing.

The Department will keep its eye on sixth grade reading, where scores remain level with last year.

Since 1996, sixth-grade reading has improved. "Reading is a skill that is important for success in higher grades," said Zelman. "We need to focus on reading instruction for adolescents."

She said the new academic content standards in English language arts (reading and writing), adopted by the State Board of Education in 2001, will provide clearer information about what students are expected to know and be able to do at each grade level.

ODE is providing professional development to help teachers and administrators understand the new standards and how they will be aligned with model curriculum and new achievement tests.

Over the seven years the proficiency tests have been given, every content area has improved in both grades.

In 1996, statewide fourth-grade test scores in the five content areas ranged from 39 percent in science to 58 percent in writing. In 2002, they ranged from 63 percent in mathematics to 81 percent in writing.

In sixth grade, 1996 statewide scores ranged from 42 percent in science to 64 percent in writing while 2002 scores ranged from 58 percent in reading to 88 percent in writing. Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune