DC School District holds students to higher standards
It takes more than good grades to graduate from high school in Douglas County. Good manners and job skills are now required for a diploma.
As part of the district’s Strategic Plan and graduation profile, this year’s sophomores and juniors at Douglas and Whittell high schools will be the first to receive an Employability Report Card for the spring semester.
“All students in order to graduate are going to have to get a passing mark on employability report cards,” District Superintendent Pendery Clark said to parents during a competencies meeting Thursday at Whittell High School. “We’re going to guarantee that if you get that diploma, it means something.”
According to the district’s employability mission statement:
“In order for all graduates for the Douglas County School District to be prepared to be employable or to be a productive citizen, it is essential that all students demonstrate competency in job retention skills. Those skills are reflected in the components of the employability report card and include attendance, punctuality, time management, respect and self control.”
Next school year an employability report card will be issued each semester beginning with the sophomore year.
Students also are expected to meet educational standards that span beyond state requirements. Students must prove competency in basic skill areas of reading, writing, listening, speaking, foreign language, math, science, social science and technology, in addition to employability.
Beginning in the third grade, students take Achievement Level Tests. Janice Florey, DCSD director of special services and assessment, explained level testing to parents during Thursday’s meeting.
“I think a good analogy would be, you know how you measure your kid’s height each year, the Achievement Level Tests allow you to measure their growth (academically),” she said. “We’re not out to fail kids. We’re out to hold them to a certain standard.”
According to the district, all third grade students are tested in the fall to set baseline scores, and then retested in the spring. All other students will be tested each spring. Students attempting to demonstrate competency for graduation may be tested more frequently.
Students are tested through at least ninth grade. If a student meets competency standards required for graduation by the ninth grade, he or she is not required to take the tests in 10th, 11th and 12th grade.
Each time students take a level test, they receive a RIT score. The score indicates a current learning level, or a level of content difficulty at a which a child has been successful.
Not all students take the same exam. Students are tested to measure individual growth. There are, for example, eight different versions of the reading portion of the Achievement Level Tests.
“There is a pretest the first year to see what level a student is at,” Florey said. “After that, a computer can predict the next level they should be tested for.”
Florey said this ensures each student is tested at a level suitable for their abilities.
“(A slower student) is just as busily working as the kid who is taking the highest level of the test,” she said.
The district identifies grades three, six and nine as important years to benchmark student progress. In order to be ranked “on target,” a third-grade student must score a 196 in reading on the spring Achievement Level Tests, a 200 in language and a 197 in math. By sixth grade, students’ scores in reading, language and math should be 215, 216 and 218, respectively. Ninth-grade scores should be 228, 227 and 232.
In order to graduate high school, students are expected to attain ninth-grade RIT reading and language benchmark scores and have scored at least a 232 in math. In addition, all students must pass the district’s Integrated 1 math course and exam, according to a district standards.
Florey said alternative assessment options are available for students with documented learning disabilities.
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