By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Results are in from the practice run of testing Havre Public Schools students in grades three through eight took earlier this month, and indicate the district needs improvement in several areas to meet new federal standards.
At least three more students in each grade will have to attain a rating of proficient or advanced in reading and math this spring for the district to meet standards set by President Bush's No Child Left Behind initiative.
The law requires that 70 percent of students test proficient or higher in each of the two test categories - reading and math - this year.
The test results showed that fifth- and seventh-graders need the most improvement of all the grades. About 57 percent of HPS fifth-graders are proficient or advanced in reading and math. About 42 percent of seventh-graders tested proficient or advanced in math - the low point of the scores - and about 58 percent tested proficient or advanced in reading.
"Every way we look at the numbers, fifth grade was low," said assistant superintendent Dennis Parman, the district official who works most closely with No Child Left Behind, a sweeping education law that imposes strict testing standards on schools.
Parman said he was pleased overall with the results of the test. He said the math results are nearly identical to results from tests taken last spring, but that the reading scores are a little lower.
Superintendent Kirk Miller told the Havre school board Tuesday that he is looking on the bright side.
"This is probably more accurate than any data we've ever had in our district," Miller said. "Twenty years ago I taught math at HHS. I wish I had this kind of information so I could have done a better job at what I was teaching."
There is a catch though, Parman said after the meeting. It remains to be seen whether the test the district used will correlate well with the new state test students will take this spring. The district will run a correlation study in the summer to see how well the district's test predicts students' preparedness for the state test. If they do not correlate well, he said, the district will have to get another test.
Students will take another test in January to further gauge their progress.
Sixth-grade students had the highest percent of proficient or advanced scores in a single subject, with three-fourths testing proficient or advanced in math.
Third-graders were overall the highest group, and were the only group to have more than 70 percent of students test proficient or advanced in reading and math. About 73 percent of third-graders tested proficient or higher in math and 74 percent were proficient or higher in reading.
About 69 percent of fourth-graders tested proficient or advanced in reading and about 67 percent reached those levels in math.
About 64 percent of sixth-graders tested proficient or advanced in reading. About 61 percent of eighth- graders tested proficient or advanced in reading and about 67 percent of eighth-graders were proficient or higher in math.
That means that in order to meet this year's requirement of 70 percent proficient or advanced in math and reading, the district must have three third-graders climb into the proficient range in reading and math, four fourth-graders do the same in both subjects, five fifth-graders in both, three sixth-graders in reading and four in math, three seventh-graders in reading and eight in math, and three eighth-graders in reading and six in math.
Parman said he met with teachers of each grade level over the past week to talk about the test results, including breakdowns of each question. Teachers can use the results to tailor their teaching. Parman said if less than 65 percent of a class answer a particular question correctly, teachers must focus on that area with the entire class. Otherwise they should go over a topic with individual students.
Under No Child Left Behind, 100 percent of each class must test at proficient or advanced by 2013.