Test scores down slightly
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
A change in the way tests scores are reported means a lower ranking for Hartselle's system in one area.
Hartselle's system is ranked "clear with priority" in the Stanford Achievement Test scores from Hartselle Junior High School.
The SAT was among an array of test scores released last week from the Department of Education. Other indicators included the Alabama Direct Assessment of Writing for Grade Five and Grade Seven; and the Alabama High School Graduation Exam. The system earned clear rankings in all those categories.
Clear means all students meet state mandated standards. Clear with priority means that while students overall scored within the acceptable ranges, some subgroups did not.
In the past, scores were reported for schools as a whole. Now, due to the No Child Left Behind Act, scores are reported for subgroups within the school. Subgroups include special education students, black, white and Hispanic students, free and reduced lunch students and those with limited English proficiency.
At HJHS, the special education subgroup fell below state standards. Special education students are given the same tests as the rest of the student population.
"Now, scores are divided into subgroups so instead of getting a blanket report, it's divided," Superintendent Dr. Lee Hartsell said. "It shows us the areas where need to concentrate."
Only four school of the 129 systems in the state are free from any academic watches. Those systems are Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Arab and Tuscumbia.
The change means many school systems, such as Hartselle, are finding themselves drop from the clear category. Still, State Superintendent Dr. Ed Richardson defends the way the scores are now being reported.
"While some may feel that (the change in reporting) seems excessive, it's at the heart of No Child Left Behind," Richardson said in an interview with The Birmingham News. "Holding schools accountable for every student is not only the law, it's the right thing to do."
Overall, Hartselle scored strong, beating both the state and national average. Hartselle students scored an average of 65, compared to the Alabama's average of 50 and the national average of 51.
The highest scores in the state were reported from the Mountain Brook system, which posted a 86. Other high scorers were Vestavia Hills (82) and Homewood (73).
SAT scores dropped slightly from last year, Hartsell said, because of a change in the test's content. Last year, students took the Stanford Nine test. This year, students took Stanford 10.
"Anytime you change the tests, you will see scores go down a couple of points," he said.
The system also fared well on another key indicator, the High School Graduation Exam. Ninety-nine percent of Hartselle students passed the exam, which is required to graduate.