Superintendent weighs in on County achievement, growth

Published 6:23 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Chambers County Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge said the school system is still adjusting to how the Alabama State Department of Education measures school performance through its annual report card.

The state released school report cards, which measure performance on a number of factors, at the end of 2018. Chambers County scored a 79 overall, which was up from 2016-2017’s 76, but there were ups and downs throughout the report.

“Comparing it to last year’s to see the growth that we made, I was very happy to see that,” She said. “I feel confident that as we continue to make improvements we will make that ‘B’ next year.”

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Hodge said that the report card in its current form, listing categories like academic growth and chronic absenteeism, was first given to schools in Alabama at the end of the 2016-17 school year, making the criteria they are trying to meet still new to administrators and students.

“Last year, the week before it came out was when we found out some of the items that would actually be assessed,” Hodge said. “This year we knew what they were assessing. However, we didn’t know exactly how they were going to look at academic growth in some grade levels.” 

Academic Achievement and Academic Growth, as defined by ALSDE, are similar in that they are based on state-mandated proficiency testing. Achievement looks at the average score of all students in a system while growth identifies the differences in scores from tests taken at different intervals in elementary and high school.

High school student’s academic growth is judged slightly differently with students’ scores from their eighth grade ACT Aspire scores being compared to their eleventh grade ACT scores.

In Chambers County, the overall academic achievement score was 58.74 and the academic growth score was 88.85. Chambers County Schools were below the state average in both categories, with academic achievement measuring at 66.38 and academic growth at 91.58 statewide.

Hodge said that while she might have hang-ups on how the scores are evaluated, she is confident that the district schools will only improve as the grading process becomes more uniform. Hodge said that she agrees that students and schools should be evaluated on these categories, but she said the state’s method does not necessarily give the entire picture.

“Through these report cards, we have really identified some gaps in our special education subgroup. However, taking one snapshot at one point in time, I wouldn’t want to be judged every day based on a test I took one day,” Hodge said. “That’s what this is. The academic achievement test is a test that students take one day out of the year.”

For third through eighth graders, the student achievement test comes in the form of a Scantron summative assessment that is taken at the beginning and end of each school year. In Chambers County, this tests students in the areas of reading and math. The two test scores from each student are compared and the average of improvement determines their academic growth.

According to Hodge, the Scantron tests are relatively new and the state is in the process of determining which tests will be used in the coming school year, meaning that students will be evaluated in a different manner from the previous year.

“I don’t like that it relies so much on that, and that is the reason they added the academic growth grade, but because the report card is so new and the tests are ever changing, that academic growth definition is different this year than it was last year,” Hodge said. “We have had four state assessment tests that I can name since I have been superintendent. It’s kind of hard, in my opinion, to truly determine academic growth … when you are changing how you are assessing constantly from year to year.”