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NEWS RELEASES 2006-07 :: OCTOBER 12, 2006


North Carolina's State Board of Education today raised proficiency standards for elementary and middle school students when it approved the achievement levels for the state's new end-of-grade mathematics assessments. These assessments were given for the first time in May 2006 to measure student performance on the revised and more rigorous mathematics curriculum.

In setting the new achievement levels, the State Board of Education made good on months of discussion regarding the need to raise standards for student performance to more closely align with proficiency standards of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and to be more challenging in preparing students for 21 st century skills and learning.

"The standards being set today are designed to help prepare North Carolina youngsters for the challenges of the 21 st century – a time of unprecedented competition economically and in many other ways," said State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee. "We know our students need a higher level of preparation to be ready for the challenges ahead."

State Superintendent June Atkinson encouraged the Board to be diligent in giving teachers professional development and support to reach the higher standards. "Teachers need our support in order to be prepared to help students reach this higher standard and new challenge," she said. "That means a stronger emphasis on professional development in mathematics instruction."

Under the new standards, the percentage of students considered to be proficient ranges from 61 percent (eighth grade) to 69 percent (third grade). This level of proficiency is similar to where the state's proficiency levels were in 1993 – the first year that end-of-grade assessments were required. The percent proficient is the primary factor in each school's performance composite reported under the ABCs of Public Education accountability model. The performance composite indicates the percentage of student test scores that are at or above the proficient level.

In raising standards under the state ABCs accountability model, the State Board of Education also decided to re-set North Carolina's targets for federal Adequate Yearly Progress to reflect the 2005-06 benchmark with the new mathematics end-of-grade tests. This enables North Carolina to increase expectations for student learning and still meet the demands of the federal education law. The new AYP target for grades 3-8 in mathematics will be 65.8 percent proficient. The AYP reading target remains at 76.7 percent. The end goal of NCLB still remains 100 percent proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2013-14.

Today's decision and its effects on performance composites are not linked to ABCs incentive awards. These bonus payments are determined by each school's academic growth performance and are scheduled to be reported on Nov. 1. The performance composites along with growth are used to assign school performance designations such as Honor School of Excellence, School of Excellence or School of Distinction under the ABCs.

The standards set today refer to the score ranges required for each of the achievement levels for student performance. Student performance on the end-of-grade assessments is classified as being in Achievement Levels I, II, III or IV. In order to be considered proficient or above, students must earn Achievement Level III or IV ratings. These levels of performance indicate that a student is prepared for school work at the next grade level.

All North Carolina students take the state's end-of-grade mathematics and reading assessments near the end of the school year in grades three through eight. These tests are used for student performance standards, to gauge school performance under the state's accountability model (the ABCs of Public Education) and for No Child Left Behind standards of Adequate Yearly Progress.

For more information about today's Board action, please contact the NCDPI Communications division, 919-807-3450.


About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.