The 2007 South Dakota Report Card, released today, shows progress toward the goal of 100 percent proficiency in math and reading, as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
“Overall, we are very pleased with the statewide Dakota STEP results,” said Education Secretary Rick Melmer. “South Dakota students typically demonstrate high levels of achievement, and this year is no different. Our statewide graduation rate, which is another key indicator, remains solid. Educators and students should be proud of their accomplishments.”
The South Dakota Report Card is based largely on the test scores of approximately 63,000 public school students in grades 3-8 and 11 who took the Dakota STEP, or State Test of Educational Progress, last spring. The test, which covers math and reading, is the state’s assessment tool under No Child Left Behind. Next year, students will be tested in science as well.
Seventy-four percent of all students tested in 2007 scored proficient or advanced in math, compared to 73 percent last year. Eighty-two percent scored proficient or advanced in reading, compared to 83 percent last year.
“We didn’t see dramatic increases at the all-student level, but we didn’t expect them either,” Melmer said. “When you get up into these higher ranges of proficiency, it becomes more challenging to keep the needle rising.”
MATH SCORES MOVE AHEAD, READING DROPS SLIGHTLY
At the state level, the math scores of all students tested increased by 1 percent. “One of the positive things we see at this level is progress among most of the subgroups of students for which schools are held accountable,” Melmer said.
One of the subgroups state leaders watch carefully is Native American students, since they make up nearly 11 percent of the student population. Native American student scores in math have increased from 27 percent proficient to 45 percent in the five years the Dakota STEP has been administered.
At the state level, the reading scores of all students tested dropped 1 percent. “The proficiency target for reading increased this year, and we saw a slight drop in scores,” Melmer explained. “But our scores still remain very strong.” Some subgroups, such as Native American students, saw their reading scores advance, while others held steady or dropped slightly.
The elementary grade groupings – grades 3-5 and 6-8 – saw jumps in both math and reading proficiency. Proficiency at the high school level, where only 11th grade students are tested, slipped slightly in both areas.
According to Melmer, a number of factors might contribute to that trend. “Part of it might be the complexity of the test at the high school level. Also, at the high school level, you see students going in a variety of directions when it comes to coursework. They’re not all taking the same math or science classes.” He noted that the new graduation requirements should help to focus students on core content areas. “It’s one more reason that we need to continue to push for more rigor at the high school level.”
One final indicator at the high school level, the statewide graduation rate, remained high. In 2007, the graduation rate was 89.07 percent, compared to 89.91 last year.
MEETING GOALS CAN BE CHALLENGING
Under No Child Left Behind, schools must meet proficiency targets in math and reading in a variety of subgroups. Schools also must meet a target for graduation or attendance rate. If schools don’t meet these adequate yearly progress goals for two consecutive years, they are identified as “in improvement” and must complete a school improvement process.
This year, 90 were identified for improvement, up from 83 in 2006. According to Melmer, making adequate yearly progress toward proficiency goals can be a challenging process – especially for schools with a diverse student population. “The more diverse the student body, the more areas in which a school is held accountable,” he explained.
The full 2007 South Dakota Report Card, including reports for individual schools and districts, is available on the Department of Education’s Web site at www.doe.sd.gov. Click on “South Dakota No Child Left Behind Report Card.”