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October 31, 2014

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CCSD middle schoolers did better on math test

When it comes to algebra, some of Clark County’s middle school students appear to know more than their high school counterparts.

On a new end-of-semester test developed by the district, 56 percent of middle schoolers earned passing scores. Fewer than 10 percent of the high school students who took the test passed.

So, why the discrepancy?

One reason is that the middle school algebra I classes are reserved for the more advanced students. In high school, because algebra is a requirement for graduation, student ability varies more widely.

At the high school level, 90.5 percent of students failed the algebra I test in January, while 86.6 percent failed algebra II. In geometry, 87.8 percent failed.

At the middle school level, 79 percent of students failed the pre-algebra test and 54 percent failed algebra I.

The middle school results were released today by the School District. District officials are already taking a closer look at the test itself, to determine whether there were flaws in how it was administered that may have contributed to the dismal scores.

One contributing factor appears to be that some teachers did not use preparation materials sent out by the district’s central office, which included instructional guides and practice questions that mirrored the content of the test.

Superintendent Walt Rulffes said he also wants to know whether the test’s design made it more difficult for the district’s English language learners, who account for about 20 percent of the district’s student population.

Lauren Kohut-Rost, deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the district, said she believes the next test, to be given at the end of the second semester, will show improvement.

Rulffes already has called for a committee to investigate the math test and make recommendations for improvement.

The new committee is expected to tackle a number of questions, including:

• Is the district’s curriculum appropriately rigorous?

• How do instructional methods differ between the low-achieving and high-achieving schools?

• What has been the impact of long-term substitute math teachers on student

achievement?

• Should the district should further limit the choice of math textbooks, given the high percentage of students who move from school to school during the academic year?

• Which math intervention programs, such as tutoring and summer school

classes, have been the most effective?

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