End-of-Course exams show improvement, decline
UNION COUNTY — The 2013 end-of-course exams were a mixed bag for Union County students who did better in two subjects but worse in two others than in 2012.
In a statement released Monday, Union County School District Director of Secondary Education Cindy Langley announced that, according to information released by the State Department of Education, county students improved their end-of-course exam performance in English 1 and U.S. History. Langley said the average score in English 1 increased from 73 percent in 2012 to 74.5 percent in 2013 while the average score in U.S. History increased from 67.5 percent to 69.8 percent.
Even as they improved their performance in those subjects, Langley said the students’ average score in Algebra 1 and Biology 1 decreased between 2012 and 2013. She said the Algebra 1 average score declined from 79.8 percent to 77.9 percent while the Biology 1 score declined from 75.6 percent to 73.9 percent.
Langley said the increases and decreases in the district passage rates mirror those of the average scores. District passage rates for English 1 increased from 63.7 percent to 68.6 percent while those for U.S. History increased from 35.6 percent to 48.5 percent. Passage rates for Algebra 1 decreased from 81.1 percent to 74.8 percent and for Biology 1 from 66.7 percent to 54.8 percent.
Langley said that at the school level highlights include increases in:
• Algebra 1 scores at Jonesville Middle School
• Biology 1 scores at Jonesville Middle School and Sims Middle School
• English 1 scores at Jonesville Middle School and Union County High School
• U.S. History scores at Union County High School
Langley said that passage rates in Algebra 1 increased at Jonesville Middle School to 100 percent while Lockhart Middle School maintained a 100 percent passage rate in the subject. She said that all three middle schools — Jonesville, Lockhart, and Sims — maintained a 100 percent passage rate in Biology 1. Langley said that Lockhart Middle School also maintained a 100 percent passage rate in English 1 while the passage rate for the subject increased at both Jonesville Middle School and Union County High School. She said the passage rate for U.S. History also increased at Union County High School.
The Education Accountability Act of 1998 requires students to take end-of-course examinations, which count 20 percent of the students’ final grade, in gateway courses including Algebra I/Math for the Technologies 2, English I, Biology I, and U. S. History and Constitution. Gateway courses are typically taken at the high school level; however, students meeting the criteria to take honors-level high school courses in grade 8 also take the examinations. In 2013 advanced eighth grade students in Union County took exams in Algebra I, English I, and Biology 1. In addition to impacting individual student grades, end-of-course scores are also included as part of the calculation for district and school federal and state report cards.
“Our goal for End of Course testing for the past three years has been to increase the overall mean score in each area as well as the percentage of students passing the tests with As, Bs, and Cs,” Langley said. “Math continues to be our area of strongest academic performance on End of Course tests with more than half of the students in the district who take the test scoring a C or better even though the overall passage rate for Algebra I dropped from 81.1 percent to 74.8 percent.
“The greatest increase in the percentage of students passing the test occurred in U.S. History and English 1,” she said. “The percentage of students passing the test increased in U.S. History from 35.6 percent to 48.4 percent while the percentage increased in English from 63.7 percent to 68.6 percent.”
Langley said the district will work to improve student scores and passage rates through continued use of benchmark testing.
“Benchmark tests will be administered throughout the year in all subject areas tested as a strategy to assess student achievement and identify instructional gaps before students take end-of-course tests in the spring,” Langley said. “We piloted benchmarks last year at Union County High School in English 1 and U.S. History and found the data quite helpful.”
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