ECS hits most NCLB standards

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Elizabethton City Schools' students rank well ahead of state target demand for elementary and high school testing, according to the Tennessee Report Card 2003 released Friday by the Tennessee Department of Education.
   Of ECS students taking the Algebra Gateway exam, 88 percent passed the algebra I section, while 99 percent passed biology I and 92 percent passed the English II portion of the exam. However, the system did not meet the federal benchmark set for under the No Child Left Behind law for economically disadvantaged high school students taking the English II portion of Gateway. Approximately 25 percent of Elizabethton High School's 888-member student body is listed as economically disadvantaged, according to the report card.
   ECS also failed to meet federal benchmarks in grades K-8 testing proficiency in math or language arts for students with disabilities, according to the report card. The report identifies 332 students -- roughly 15 percent of the system's 2,204 students -- as having disabilities and 804 students, or 35 percent of students, as economically disadvantaged.
   The report card combines federal and state law requirements for reporting educational progress. Tennessee's earlier report cards included testing achievement scores, attendance, promotion and cohort dropout rates, writing assessment results, and ACT results.
   Each school must report how it is doing overall and by the following subgroups: low-income, special education, new immigrant, white, black, Asian, Native American and Pacific Islander. A school system with fewer than 45 students in one subgroup is not required to report that data. The only subgroups reportable by ECS were economically disadvantaged students taking the English II exam and K-8 exams, and students with disabilities taking TCAP exams.
   Test scores also reported that all 43 of the 8th grade students at T.A. Dugger Junior High who took the algebra portion of the Gateway exam passed. The system's per pupil expenditures of $6,963 beats the state average of $6,648 but like most state systems, falls well below the national average of $8,383.
   The state sets a goal for schools and school systems to maintain an attendance level of 93 percent in grades K-12 and 97 percent of students in grades K-8 are promoted to the next grade each year.
   The State Board of Education designated 10 high school courses in 1998 for the development of end-of-course examinations. Students who enter their freshman year in 2001-02 must pass three Gateway tests -- mathematics, science, and language arts -- before graduation to earn a high school diploma. These Gateway Tests are part of the End-of-Course series of tests that students take in high school.
   Earlier this year, Tennessee merged its accountability system with the federal NCLB requirements. Under the merged system, schools and systems must show each year that a greater percentage of students are reaching standards of academic proficiency in math, reading and language arts.
   The goal of NCLB is for all children in every school and system to reach academic proficiency in those subjects by 2013-2014. The Gateway exams were first administered statewide during the 2001-2002 school year when the algebra I and biology I exams were given. English II was added this year. The state requires schools to count Gateway exam scores as a minimum of 15 percent of a student's course grade.
   Subjects of geometry, algebra II, physical science, chemistry, and U.S. history will be added each year through the 2005-2006 school year until the exam program is fully implemented. The system had equally high scores during the first round of the Gateway exams last year, ranking among the top scoring school systems in the region and the state.
   The state sets target proficiency scores of 77.1 percent in language arts and 72.4 percent in math for K-8 students through the 2003-2004 school year. Those targets rise to 82.8 percent in language arts and 79.1 in math next year.
   Tennessee high school students will also see their performance bar raised next year. Target proficiency scores rise from 86 percent for language arts and 65.4 percent for math this year to 89.5 percent and 74 percent, respectively.