Local schools improve on SATs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Staff Writer

A year ago, Pike County High School was celebrating an accomplishment ­ getting off Academic Alert 2 status.

Today, PCHS is in "caution" and Pike County Elementary School is in the clear after announcement of the results of the 2001 Stanford Achievement Test, Ninth Edition, which were released by the Alabama Department of Education on Thursday.

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In 2001, the percentage of Academic Clear schools and school systems increased, while the percentage of Academic Alert and Caution schools and school systems decreased.

Schools and school systems are classified as Academic Alert if a majority of its students score below the 23rd percentile, the school or system failed to meet the required improvement or a majority of the system’s schools score in Academic Alert. When placed in Alert status, the school or system must examine reasons for low achievement and develop a plan to change it. If test scores do not improve the following year, they are placed in Alert 2 status.

John Key, superintendent of the Pike County Schools, said poorer systems like Pike County, are the ones more likely to have lower scores on standardized tests.

"This is going to reoccur and not get any better until funding is made more static and stable," Key said.

For now, he said the school system will put on a "tourniquet" and apply pressure on the areas of need.

Mark Bazzell, assistant superintendent, said the system’s schools will "continue to teeter around clear/caution" because of funding issues.

The SAT 9 was administered to 473,142 Alabama public school students in grades 3-11 in April.

Schools in the city of Troy showed an overall improvement and are above the national average in all grades.

"We are pleased with what we have been able to do and are looking forward to improving again next year," said Hank Jones, superintendent of the Troy City Schools.

Jones credited improvements to the Alabama Reading Initiative that was implemented at Troy Elementary School and "had a positive impact" on the SAT 9 results.

He hopes the Troy schools will continue to improve.

"It takes more than a year to turn a school around," Jones said. "We are working on test preparation because better prepared students perform better on tests.

"We will continue to push all students into academic clear. That’s what we are working toward."

Results released Thursday indicate, for the second year in a row, total scores for all nine grades tested, including special education students, were at or above the national average of 50.

In addition, average percentiles across grades 3-11 are above the national average in all subjects except reading, which is at the 49th percentile.

The state’s average percentile scores are three to four points higher in subjects when special education students’ scores are excluded.

In compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the number of special education students participating in the state’s regular assessment program increased significantly, this year. A total of 48,888 special education students ­ an increase of 9,055 over last year ­ were included in this year’s testing.

Analysis of the 2001 test results indicates this contributes to the slightly lower scores for 2001. Since 1996, special education student participation on the SAT 9 has increased by 68.5 percent.

State Superintendent of Education Ed Richardson said he was pleased by efforts of continued improvements by teachers and students across the state.

"I am very proud of the students, teachers, parents and specialists brought in by the state Department of Education, who made this work," Richardson said.

This is the sixth year Alabama students have taken the SAT 9 and the resulting scores used for school and school system accountability.

Based on recommendations of the Southern Regional Education Board, the state board of education is currently reviewing its assessment and accountability methods. The board will act on that information next year. An interim assessment and accountability plan will take effect at the beginning of the 2001-2002 school year.

"There has to be some measure of accountability," Richardson said. "Whether it is the Stanford, or some other method, remains to be seen. Obviously, we want to help schools avoid intervention, but the bottom line is that we must ensure our students can compete with others from around the nation and the world.

"This year’s results prove accountability works and can help improve student performance in struggling schools."

Richardson said the state board of education will continue to work toward its goal that every Alabama public school student has the opportunity to receive a quality education.

Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman also offered his congratulations during a Thursday morning press conference.

"I want to congratulate the students and the teachers that worked hard to make this year a success," Siegelman said. "Alabama has been recognized for having one of the toughest accountability systems in the country. Each year, we improve our performance on these tough standards. But, we must continue working to ensure that every Alabama child has an opportunity for success."

Test scores for individual schools and breakdowns by grade can be found at the Alabama Department of Education’s website, www.alsde.edu.