PBSD test score analysis detects math as problem area

Pine Bluff School District Superintendent Linda Watson briefed members of the board of directors at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday on the results of an analysis of literacy and mathematics scores for students in the third through the 11th grades over a three-year period between the 2010-2011 school year and the 2012-2013 school year.

“Our literacy scores improved but our biggest problem is in mathematics,” Watson said. “The third-graders improved a little in math while the fourth-graders basically stayed where they were. Those in the fifth grade did not do well at all.”

Watson said that under the new Common Core standards, fifth-graders are being taught what had been sixth- and seventh-grade math content in the past.

“Mathematics is where we are really going to have to concentrate our efforts,” Watson said. “We are now teaching in fewer fields but we are teaching students to think at a deeper level. They are being taught to analyze situations and make judgments through project-based instruction.”

Watson said that external providers including Renaissance Learning, Elbow to Elbow and Evans Newton Incorporated have done a great deal to assist teachers and students with this more rigorous level of learning.

Watson singled out geometry as the biggest problem area.

“The largest decrease in end-of-course proficiency occurred in geometry,” Watson said. “Scores decreased by 34 percent over the past three years and 44 percent from 2012 to 2013.”

Watson said a change in who takes the end-of-course exams greatly affected the geometry scores.

“Prior to the 2012-2013 school year only the students who passed the first semester of geometry and Algebra I took the end-of-course exams,” Watson said. “During the 2013 school year all of the students enrolled in geometry and Algebra I took the end-of-course exams. Hence the huge decrease in the mathematics scores.”

Algebra I proficiency decreased by 17 percent over the three-year period and by 11 percent between 2012 and 2013.

Watson said third-grade math proficiency increased by 7 percent over the past three years; fourth-grade math proficiency decreased by 3 percent over that period; fifth-grade math proficiency declined by 14 percent over the three years; and sixth-grade math proficiency decreased a total of 12 percent from 2011 to 2013.

Watson said that over the three=year period, seventh-grade math proficiency decreased by 4 percent and eighth-grade math proficiency actually increased by 13 percent.

In literacy, Watson said that third-grade proficiency increased by 3 percent; fourth-grade proficiency increased by 3 percent; fifth-grade proficiency increased by 9 percent but decreased by 6 percent between 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.

Sixth-grade literacy proficiency increased by 1 percent over the period.

Watson said that 11th-grade literacy proficiency increased by 14 percent over the past three years and by 8 percent between 2012 and 2013.