Archive for Thursday, September 13, 2001

Middle schools lead district in state tests

September 13, 2001

Both De Soto school district middle schools attained a standard of excellence on Kansas assessment tests released earlier this month.

District director of curriculum Doug Powers said that in addition to Lexington Trails' standard of excellence in reading that was reported last week, Monticello Trails reached that milestone in math.

The district's scores were from state assessment tests students took last year. Last year's fifth-, eighth- and 11th-graders were tested in reading; fourth-, seventh and 10th-graders in mathematics; fourth-, seventh and 10th-graders in science; and sixth-, eighth- and 11th-in social studies.

Powers said he had yet to receive state averages for social studies and science, but the scores district students achieved in reading and math were very positive. And the best of those were the scores earned by middle school students.

In reading, district eighth-graders bettered the state average of 81.2 percent by 4.1 percentage points. In math, district seventh-graders scored 60.6 percent, compared to the state average of 51.7 percent.

Powers said the district doesn't break down the scores to building levels.

"We're concerned with how we do as a district as a whole," he said.

The middle school scores were higher than those achieved in the rest of the district. District fifth-graders scored 82.5 on the reading test, compared to the state average of 81.3. High school juniors scored at 80 percent, while the state average was 79.2.

In math, district fourth-graders and sophomores actually scored lower than the state average, if barely. Fourth-graders achieved at 55.8 percent, compared to the state average of 56 percent. Sophomores tested at 47 percent, while the state average was 47.5 percent.

Although only the test scores aren't available for the building level, Powers said it was obvious both middle schools scored well on the math and reading. Powers was unable to pinpoint the reason the two district middle schools did so well, except to say that the students in the middle schools benefit from the district's education system throughout their school years.

"They speak to our total program," he said. "Seventh- and eighth-graders took the tests, but these were K through seven and K through eight scores."

The scores are more impressive because the district has changed the method it measures for standards of excellence, Powers said. No longer can a few exceptional students "blow up the whole curve," he said. Now, 25 percent of a school's students must perform at an excellent level, 60 percent at a proficient level, 80 percent at satisfactory and 95 percent at basic or above. At the same time, only 5 percent or less can perform at an unsatisfactory level.

Across the board, the district recorded a smaller percentage of students performing at an unsatisfactory level than the state average. And in almost all cases, the district recorded a higher percentage of students performing at an advanced level than the state average.

Again, middle school students led the way. Only 2.3 percent of district eighth-graders performed at the unsatisfactory level, compared to the state average of 11.6 percent. Conversely, 18.6 percent of the students tested at the advanced level, while the state average was 8.3 percent.

In math, an amazing 26 percent of last year's seventh graders tested at the advanced level, while 8.4 percent performed at the unsatisfactory level. Those percentages compared to a state averages of 14.5 percent and 21.6 percent respectively.

Powers said district officials are pleased with the showing but are determined to get the scores of all buildings to the standard of excellence level. The district is putting new science curriculum in place this year and is developing a new math curriculum for next year.

"This district has a very high level of expectations," he said. "Our challenge is to maintain the excellence in those areas where it has been achieved, and to improve areas where we are at the state average."

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