A lot of parents may be in for shock in a few weeks when they see their children's reading test scores.
Many more N.C. students failed end-of-grade reading tests this year than in previous years. Students who, judging by test scores, seemed to have known their way around a poem or short story just a year ago might this year rate as barely passing.
But the big drop isn't necessarily because students aren't learning or that teaching has gotten worse. Education officials say the drop is because the test is more difficult.
Though the results won't affect individual students or cause teachers to lose bonus money, the sharp declines will give school districts a jolt.
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It is likely that fewer schools will meet progress goals under the federal No Child Left Behind law, and that fewer schools will be able to crow about state honors based on high test scores.
Ruth Perez, CMS's chief academic officer, says CMS doesn't have its reading test scores yet, and doesn't expect to have them until late this month or early November.
The results for individual schools will not be reported before Nov. 1.
But statewide, the percentages of students who passed the end-of-grade reading tests dropped by double digits in third through eighth grades.
The new tests reflect changes the state board made a few years ago in what it wanted students to learn, said Lou Fabrizio, director of accountability services at the state Department of Public Instruction.
“The bar has gone up considerably,” he said.
The State Board of Education on Thursday adopted the new standards for passing the test.
It's not that students aren't learning as much as they did in 2007, state education officials said. It's that they're being expected to learn more.
School districts went through a similar wringer two years ago when the state board made it harder for students to pass the end-of-grade math test. The state's highest scoring districts slipped, and the achievement gap between minority and white students widened.
The state wants to adjust the proficiency targets it's supposed to meet under the No Child Left Behind law. The state has asked the federal government to drop the reading targets for third through eighth grades from 84.4percent to 43.2 percent. Even if the federal government agrees, not all schools that met federal standards in 2007 will meet them this year, Fabrizio said.
Schools that fall short in the same subject – reading or math – two years in a row are subject to sanctions, including allowing students to transfer to other schools or enroll in private tutoring.