Three county schools on watch

By Staff
Tracy Brady, Hartselle Enquirer
Three Morgan County schools have failed to meet new academic score standards set for SAT, fifth and seventh grade writing assessments and the Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE).
Sparkman Elementary School has been placed on academic watch for receiving a fifth grade writing score of 19.23 percent. Falkville Elementary School has also been placed on academic watch for a fifth grade reading score of 9.09 percent. Both schools would have had to score 20.11 percent or better to meet the new standards.
According to Morgan County Superintendent Don W. Murphy, all teachers in all grades are placing more of an emphasis on reading and writing.
"We have work to do," Murphy said. "This is the first writing test our students have taken and it's good for us to be able to recognize their weaknesses. We're not satisfied with the scores, but we're working on it now and will continue to work on it aggressively."
Falkville High School has been placed on academic priority for a score of 79.66 percent on the math portion of the AHSGE. The school missed the new standard score of 80 percent by a mere .34 percent.
"We knew we would have some problems in math and have been working on a solution for some time," Murphy said. "Our teachers and administrators at Falkville High School are being proactive and are working collaboratively to commit to this long term challenge."
Murphy said the math portion of the test had already been identified as a problem and teachers have implemented new software, tutoring, remediation, basic skills classes, and additional resource materials to correct it.
Falkville High School has also implemented the Alabama Math Science Technology Initiative (AMSTI) this year.
"I think this will help us to produce overall better students," Murphy said. "I wish Morgan County didn't have a school on the list, but we will be a better school system in the future for having identified the problems and working on them."
This is the first year for these standardized tests to be broken into the categories of gender, race, migrant status, special education, English language proficiency and economic level.
Murphy said no problems were identified in Morgan County among any specific group.
The categories make it impossible for schools to compare this year's scores with previous years. However, schools across the state expected lower scores as a result of the new reporting method which was initiated to meet requirements set by the federal "No Child Left Behind" education reform act of 2001.
According to the State Board of Education, the new method of scoring will help teachers and administrators identify students and groups who may require additional educational assistance.
"As important to what the data reveal, is how they will be used," State Superintendent Ed Richardson said. "The key to turning this new information into results will be making sure all teachers and administrators better understand how to use the data to help students learn."
The Alabama Department of Education has developed a new Web-based Accountability Reporting System for teachers and administrators to understand and utilize test results.
"It's a new system and we'll have to get used to it," Murphy said. "But I feel confident we will have this year's problems cleared up next year and be back on track because of it."

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