By Tim Leeds
Havre students scored well above the national average on standardized tests given in March, as did the rest of the state.
"I think that's promising for our district," Havre Superintendent Kirk Miller said Monday. "However, we always believe we can become better at what we do well. We will continue to use test results as part of analyzing our programs so that we make sure we're providing the best opportunities for our students."
Linda McCulloch, Montana superintendent of public instruction, released the test results Friday. She said the results are just one indicator of success in education. The purpose of the tests is to identify and support programs and strategies that are working and direct energy and resources to students that need help, she added.
"This was the first year all Montana students participated in the same tests and should provide more useful information. Montana students scored well above the national averages in all grades and subject areas," McCulloch said.
Assistant Superintendent Dennis Parman presented the results of the Havre tests to the school board at their meeting Tuesday.
The standardized tests measured students' proficiency in reading, math, language arts, science and social studies, placing their results in categories of "novice," "near proficiency," "proficient" and "advanced." The Montana Board of Public Education requires all accredited Montana schools to annually report student achievement scores for grades four, eight and 11.
In the Havre schools, 71 percent of fourth-graders qualified as proficient or advanced in their composite score of all subjects, 11 percent higher than the national norm. Fifty-seven percent of Havre fourth-graders scored at or above the national norm in social studies, the fourth-graders worst showing in a subject. A total of 68 percent scored at or above the norm in science, in their best showing.
A total of 68 percent of Havre eighth-graders scored as proficient or advanced in the composite score. Their scores ranged from 52 percent at or above the norm in social studies to 61 percent above the norm in math.
Of Havre's 11th-graders, 72 percent scored as proficient or advanced in the composite score. Their scores ranged from 56 percent at or above the norm in language arts to 67 percent at or above the norm in social studies.
Miller said a main use of the tests will be to evaluate programs. The district will need to look at a comparison once tests are done in the future.
Havre Public Schools is conducting achievement tests this month, the first year with new tests designed from the curriculum at the schools. The standardized tests, along with the achievement tests, will be used to guide policy-making in the district, Miller said. The district's achievement test will give a clearer indication of student performance in curriculum areas considered important to the district, while the standardized tests will compare performance to national norms. If the district finds problems in its programs through the tests, it can adjust the programs, he said.
On the state level, the tests will drive policy and standards development for public education, Miller added.
McColluch said the test results underscore the need to focus on education needs, including "a looming educator shortage and adequate state support for schools." Montana test scores stabilized in the last five years on standardized tests the state used in the past, while remaining among the top in the nation, she said. If the problems are not dealt with now, the state is likely to see a decline in the quality of public education.
"When examining the scores, Montanans need to understand that a variety of factors impact the results," McColluch said. "These scores are a snapshot of our schools at a particular point in time. It is absolutely critical we use this information in a constructive manner to help all students improve and design programs to meet their needs. It should be the goal of every school to continually strive to move each student to higher performance levels."
Reports for each school and school district, are available from the Montana Office of Public Instruction on its Web site or in print form.
On the Net: Montana Office of Public Instruction: www.opi.state.mt.us