State tests show mixed results

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 21, 2009

Brookhaven High School students scored above the state averagein three of the four subjects tested in last spring’s Subject AreaTesting Program exam, but only half of the groups in grades threethrough eight taking the Mississippi Curriculum Test reached thestate benchmark in mathematics.

An average of 84 percent of BHS students recorded passing scoresin Algebra I, U.S. History, Biology I and English II – the foursubjects tested on the SATP – beating the state average of 79.8percent. The only subject in which BHS students fell short of thestate average was in U.S. History, and even there they scored 97percent, missing the state average by only four-tenths of apercentage point.

BHS students beat the state average in Algebra I by 8.6 percent,with 77 percent passing; in Biology by 4.9 percent, with 93.3percent passing; and in English II by 3.9 percent, with 68.9percent passing.

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“I was tickled to death with our algebra and biology scores,”said Lea Barrett, Brookhaven superintendent. “It pleases me to knowwe’re doing better than the state.”

The only group of scores that curled Barrett’s eyebrow werethose her BHS students tallied on the English II portion of theSATP. Though the scores were still above the state average, theywere by far the lowest numbers turned in.

Barrett pointed out the English II portion of the exam was,along with Algebra, revamped and made more rigorous beginning in2008. The U.S. History and Biology I portions of the test will beadvanced for 2010.

“The English II test is very difficult – it’s not the old “wheredoes the comma go?'” she said.

The SATP is issued to high school students based on the level oftheir curriculum. At BHS, Algebra I students constituted thelargest body of students taking the test, with 226 tested, whileEnglish II, U.S. History and Biology I followed with 257, 197 and163 students tested, respectively.

While Brookhaven’s high school students turned in an impressivescore on the mathematics portion of the SATP, the district’selementary and middle school students did not do as well dealingwith numbers on the MCT.

While the students in grades three through eight beat the stateaverage in seven of the test’s 12 categories and the majoritybested state averages in Language Arts, only half of those groupsmet state proficiency averages in math and none of the six gradesmet the state average for students scoring advanced.

The lowest math scores were tallied by the district’s seventh-and eighth-graders, with 33.2 percent of seventh-graders and 22percent of eighth-graders scoring only minimal grades. Only 28.3percent of seventh-graders were graded as proficient on theexam.

Barrett said school administrators were disappointed by the lowscores in seventh- and eighth-grade math and are doing research todetermine how the scores can be improved.

“We’ve got professional development planned for those teachers,and we have improved our staff at the seventh-grade position,” shesaid. “We’re going to use some of our stimulus money to provideadditional tutors this year.”

Barrett said part of the reason the seventh- and eighth-gradersscores were low this year was because of staff adjustments atAlexander Junior High School, where principal Rod Henderson isstarting his second year.

“He’s been there a year now and has had conferences with histeachers so he can provide them assistance – classroom computers,new software, additional tutors – as needed,” she said.

While the junior high grades are in line for additionalinstruction, the district’s third- and fourth-graders shone on theMCT2. Both grades beat the state averages for proficient andadvanced scores on the language arts portion of the test, and bothgrades beat the state average for proficient scores on the mathportion.

None of the six grades tested beat state averages for advancedscores on the mathematics portion of the MCT2.

“They’re getting a wonderful foundation on which to build,”Barrett said of the third- and fourth-graders. “Across the board, Iwas very pleased with BES and BHS (on the SATP). But after talkingto our teachers, I’m convinced we’re going to have a very quickturnaround at Lipsey (School) and AJHS in those math scores.”