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For the week of May 10 through May 16, 2000

Local students’ math, writing test scores dip

Lower scores reflect higher standards, educators say

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County students’ scores on a writing test and a math problem-solving test dropped slightly this year, educators say, due in part to tougher new grading standards.

Compared to statewide scores, however, local students’ scores remain slightly above average.

Unlike the multiple-choice Iowa Test of Basic Skills—a well-known standardized test administered annually in the nations’ schools—the Idaho Direct Math Assessment (DMA) and Direct Writing Assessment (DWA) evaluate students’ writing competence and math problem-solving ability.

The assessments give a snapshot of student performance and provide information to assist classroom teachers in shaping future instruction, the State Department of Education wrote last week in a statement.

For both tests, students receive a score ranging from one to five, with a score of three being satisfactory and a score of five being advanced.

Each year, Idaho schools administer the DMA to fourth- and eighth-grade students and the DWA to fourth-, eighth- and 11th-grade students.

On the DMA, Blaine County students scored an average 3.1 in the fourth grade this year compared to a 3.3 last year. Blaine County eighth-grade DMA scores this year are an average 2.7 compared to 3.4 last year.

This year, Blaine County DWA scores for fourth grade are 2.8, for eighth grade are 3.0 and for 11th grade are 3.3. Last year’s Blaine County DWA scores were 2.9 for fourth grade, 3.0 for eighth grade and 3.4 for 11th grade.

Statewide scores on the DMA this year are 2.8 for fourth grade and 2.6 for eighth grade.

For the DWA, statewide scores this year are 2.6 for fourth grade, 2.8 for eighth grade and 3.3 for 11th grade.

"The math scores reflect the setting of higher achievement standards for students," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Marilyn Howard said, according to last week’s statement. "We’re asking students to do the usual basic skills problems such as computation and we’re asking them to use those skills to solve more complex problems. We expect changes in scores when expectations change."

More than 300 Idaho math and English teachers met in Boise to score the tests using a strict grading rubric.

The rubric is a set of grading standards that ensures all tests are graded equally, BCSD director for special services Blake Walsh said in a telephone interview Friday.

Educators will later examine the test score data for strengths and weaknesses in student performance and use the information to adjust future curricula to better suit students’ needs, Walsh said.

School counselors will provide parents with their children’s individual scores upon request, Walsh said.


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