Originally created 05/15/98

Test score on rise in county schools



When Charles Larke became Richmond County schools superintendent two years ago, one his goals was to raise pupils' standardized test scores by five percent each year.

Results from the Iowa Test of Basic Skills -- an annual skills assessment test administered to third, fifth and eighth graders in March -- show that several schools are reaching that goal. Dr. Larke presented the results to school trustees Thursday at the school board's monthly meeting.

"We're really excited about this ITBS gain," Dr. Larke said. "This is as exciting as the 8-point gain on the SATs."

Overall county scores for eighth graders improved in every subject area -- reading, math, language arts, social studies, science and sources of information -- by five percent.

Third graders' scores improved in four of six subject areas -- reading, math, language arts and social studies -- by five percent. The areas that did not show improvement were science and sources of information, which tests research and library skills.

Fifth graders improved in all subject areas, except science, by five percent. In science, third and fifth grade scores declined overall.

"The ITBS is the equivalent to the SAT for high schools, as far as what they work hard for all year long," Dr. Larke said. "Everybody's going to be quite excited about this."

Two middle schools, Glenn Hills and Morgan Road, improved in all six subjects, and students at Tutt and Spirit Creek middle schools remained constant in social studies, improving in the remaining five subjects.

"We're very happy about improving the scores," said Tutt principal Billy Watson. He attributes the gains to emphasizing the test's importance to students and parents, and to effective teaching.

"We did what we've been doing, we just did a little bit better job," he said. "When you work hard at something you get good results."

Of the county's 38 elementary schools, an average of 22 schools either remained the same or improved over last year's scores in all subjects. The biggest gain was in language arts, where 26 elementary schools stayed constant or improved in both third and fifth grade scores.

Not all schools fared so well, though. For example, Walker Middle School's scores declined slightly in three of the six subjects -- reading, social studies and sources of information. Despite the decline, though, Walker's scores were still among the highest in the county for eighth graders, second only to Davidson Magnet School's. Davidson eighth graders managed to stay on top even though their scores declined in all six subjects.

And even though county-wide scores improved overall, several schools experienced drastic declines in test scores. Jenkins Elementary School third graders, for instance, declined by at 12 percentile points or more in all six subjects. Monte Sano Elementary third graders went down by at least 11 points in all subjects. Fifth graders at Garrett Elementary School dropped in all six subjects by at least eight points.

"We look at the fact that overall in the county we have a gain," Dr. Larke said, adding that other factors such as the population of the school and the fact that a different group of students being tested can also contribute to changes in scores.

State averages have not yet been tabulated.

Individual test scores for Columbia County schools were unavailable Thursday due to a computer error, according to Testing Coordinator Kay Blanchard.