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School data trends positive

Dec. 11, 2012 @ 11:08 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Test scores are up, the number of dropouts is down, and more students are taking career and technical education courses.

Those were among the findings discussed at a recent special Cabell County Board of Education meeting that focused solely on a variety of measures of school and student performance in Cabell County Schools. Assistant Superintendent Gerry Sawrey and Jeff Smith, director of assessment and curriculum, also discussed Advanced Placement trends and how students are utilizing the state's Innovation Zone waivers to earn credit toward graduation.

One of the first things Sawrey pointed out to board members is how well Cabell County students are doing on the state's WESTEST 2 assessment exam, which is taken each May.

Results from the 2012 test placed Cabell at 20th best in the state, up from 23rd in 2011, 28th in 2010 and 29th in 2009. The WESTEST 2 was put in place in 2009. The test is considered much more rigorous than the original WESTEST and requires students to use deeper critical thinking skills.

Sawrey pointed out that in 2005, Cabell County ranked 24th in the state on the much-easier, basic level WESTEST. And that was the best students performed during a four-year stretch that hit a low point in 2008 -- the final year for the first WESTEST -- when Cabell County ranked 37th.

"We ranked lower when the test was easier," she said.

But, as she went deeper into the numbers, she showed not everyone is excelling. Black, special education and low-socioeconomic students are scoring much lower in reading and math than those who are not in a low-socioeconomic subgroup (a student could be in more than one subgroup).

Sawrey and Smith also talked about the data available for teachers which can be individualized for each student. A new system called the growth model maps out a minimum of two years' worth of WESTEST 2 data and can show where students might trend in the future in reading or math.

Other data discussed in the Dec. 6 meeting included:

The number of dropouts has decreased from 222 in 2010 to 95 last school year. The highest in the past decade was 250 in 2005.

The number of students passing Advanced Placement exams has increased. The exams are given to every student in an AP class and count for college credit if a student scores a 3 or higher. In 2012, 51 percent of the 1,012 enrolled in AP classes (some are enrolled in more than one AP class) scored at least a 3. That exceeds the recent high of 48 percent in 2007. The tests became mandatory in 2010 when the county agreed to pay the test fee for the students.

However, the county continues to struggle in getting black students and low-socioeconomic students enrolled in AP courses.

The career and technical education programs continue to see increased enrollment. Since 2010, the number has nearly doubled to 165 students. And those students are taking multiple courses, as the total seats last year grew to 3,584 from 1,135 during the 2010-2011 school year.

More students are taking advantage of extended learning opportunities and embedded credits. Extended learning opportunities allow students to meet state standards by what they are doing outside the classroom, such as a student who earns a music credit based on private piano lessons and performances.

Embedded credit allows students to earn multiple credits for one class. For example, students who take all four years of JROTC can earn their physical education, health and civics credits. Marching band members also can earn their physical education credit.

Disciplinary offenses for which students can be expelled have decreased during the past two school years from 151 in 2009-2010 to 106 in 2011-2012.

Attendance rates for freshman students have increased by 2 percent since 2010 after three years at the 88th percentile.



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