Put to the test

Published 8:01 pm Thursday, September 18, 2008

The majority of Covington County’s elementary school students performed better than the state average in the area of reading and math during the 2007-2008 school year.

Of the seven elementary schools in the three systems, five performed above the state average in reading. Four schools performed above the state average in the area of math.

That is according to results from the spring 2008 administration of the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test, recently released by the Alabama Department of Education.

Those scores were used as part of the state’s August ratings of its 1,367 schools.

Besides test scores, the state uses daily attendance numbers, test participation data and graduation rates to evaluate schools in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The state requires that a certain number students from all demographic groups — such as race, economic background, special education status and more — must pass the reading and math tests. Those rates vary by grade level and increase every year until 2014, when 100 percent of students will be expected to pass.

Andalusia Elementary School exceeded the state average in reading by almost half a percent but fell short of the state’s math average by nearly 3.5 percent.

Dr. Beverly McAnulty, ACS superintendent, said she was pleased with her system’s results.

“We’re always looking at ways to get even closer those 2014 targets — that’s the real goal. What you’re doing now, your real target is achieving 100 percent by 2014.

“(The results) show strong teaching,” she said. “A fair number of kids in poverty and some challenges with special kids, yet consistently we did very well.”

South Highlands Elementary School ranked nearly 2 percent under the state’s reading score and almost 5.5 percent behind the state’s math score.

Michael Smithart, Opp City Schools superintendent, said parents shouldn’t base the idea that their school is successful or not on the test’s results.

“Although we base so much of our perception of whether we were successful or not on the basis of these scores, it is important to remember this is one test on one day of 180 days of school,” Smithart said. “(What these results say) about the overall quality of our school system is that we have a school system our community can be very proud of,” he said. “We are certainly not satisfied because our goal is 100 percent proficiency, and we will continue to work towards that goal.”

Elementary schools in the Covington County Schools system scored some of the highest marks in the county.

In reading scores, Fleeta Junior High School came in first, followed by W.S. Harlan Elementary School, Pleasant Home School, Straughn Elementary and Red Level School. In math, WSH came in first, followed by PHS, SES, Fleeta and RLS.

Sharon Dye, county school superintendent, said she attributes the scores to programs like the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) and the Alabama Mathematics, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI).

“We are just exceptionally proud of our school system,” Dye said. “We’re known throughout the system to have a exceptional learning program. With programs like ARI and AMSTI, we know that those schools perform better than those who don’t have them. Combine that with high quality teaching and we have in place the things that target student learning.”