CMS releases how it stacks up against other districts - | WBTV Charlotte

CMS releases how it stacks up against other districts

By Dedrick Russell - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte - Mecklenburg school (CMS) district has bragging rights when it comes to science.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released results of scores from different school districts nationwide.  CMS came in at the top when it came to 4th grade scores in science.  The tests were given back in 2009.

The elementary students had a 70% proficiency rate.  That was higher than school districts in Boston, Austin, Miami-Dade and other school districts.  

CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman says the fourth graders had a greater emphasis in science. That help boost the test scores.

"Our students' achievement in science reflects a broad, district-wide effort," Gorman said.  "To do a better job of teaching science, especially in elementary school. We have strengthened our science curriculum in multiple ways, including partnerships with a lot of local businesses, and it's helping our kids learn."

While elementary school students are doing a good job, middle school students are struggling.  The science test was also given to eighth graders. They didn't fare as well.  52% of 8th graders were proficient in science. 

Gorman says budget cuts could threatened middle schoolers making progress in science.

"We need to offer those opportunities for everyone," Gorman said. "Part of the challenge is we as a school district are providing that for everyone. It's too big of a job for us to do it alone and when our resources get cut it gets harder and harder for us to do."

Below is a copy of CMS' press release concerning the NAEP scores.

Copyright 2011 WBTV. All rights reserved.

CMS a top scorer in NAEP science assessment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Feb. 24, 2011 – Fourth-graders in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools led the nation and large cities in performance on a national test to measure science knowledge. CMS eighth-graders scored in the top three cities on the assessment.

The science tests were given in 2009 by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often called the nation's report card. The tests measured student achievement in three areas: physical science, life science and earth and space. They were given to a sample of students in Charlotte, 16 other cities and all 50 states.

Charlotte fourth-graders also outperformed their peers nationally and in North Carolina when the results were broken out by subgroups. Average scale scores for white, black and Hispanic students in Charlotte were higher than scores for similar groups in the nation and large cities.

"We are very pleased with these results," said Peter C. Gorman, superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. "Our students' achievement in science reflects a broad, district-wide effort to do a better job of teaching science, especially in elementary school. We have strengthened our science curriculum in multiple ways, including partnerships with a lot of local businesses, and it's helping our kids learn."

 For eighth-graders, the average scale scores for white and black students in Charlotte were higher than for similar students in the nation and large cities. CMS eighth-graders who were Hispanic outperformed their counterparts in large cities and matched the scores of those in the nation.

"We know we have more work to do with our eighth-graders in science," Dr. Gorman said. "We'll continue to strengthen our science curriculum -- and we think that the programs that have led to success for our fourth-graders will continue to pay off as these students move through school."

The tests, which had a maximum scale score of 300, were administered in 2009. Scores were classified as below basic, basic, proficient and advanced. Officials at the National Assessment of Educational Progress cautioned that the test had been significantly changed since the previous science assessment in 2005, and that the results could not be compared.

The average scale score for fourth-graders in Charlotte was 150, compared to an average score of 148 in North Carolina, 135 in large cities and 149 for public schools across the nation. Seventy-one percent of fourth-graders in Charlotte scored at or above basic (passing), compared to 69 percent in North Carolina, 56 percent in large cities and 71 percent in public schools in the nation.

When broken out by subgroups, Charlotte fourth-graders also did better than most of their peers.

Ninety-four percent of white students were at or above basic, compared to 85 percent in large cities and 86 percent in the nation. Of those, 62 percent in Charlotte were at or above proficient, compared to 48 percent in large cities and 46 percent in the nation.

Fifty percent of African-American students scored at or above basic, compared to 41 percent in large cities and 46 percent in the nation. Ten percent of black students in Charlotte scored proficient or higher, compared to eight percent for large cities and 10 percent in the nation.

Fifty-eight percent of Hispanic students in Charlotte scored at or above basic, compared to 48 percent in large cities and 52 percent in the nation. Fifteen percent of those were proficient or higher in Charlotte, compared to 12 percent in large cities and 13 percent in the nation.

The average scale score for eighth-graders in Charlotte was 141, compared to an average score of 144 in North Carolina, 134 in large cities and 149 for public schools across the nation. Fifty-two percent of eighth-graders in Charlotte scored at or above basic (passing), compared to 56 percent in North Carolina, 44 percent in large cities and 62 percent in public schools in the nation.

When broken out by subgroups, Charlotte eighth-graders matched or outperformed their peers in the nation and large cities.

Eighty-three percent of white students were at or above basic, compared to 73 percent in large cities and 77 percent in the nation. Of those, 49 percent in Charlotte were at or above proficient, compared to 40 percent in large cities and 41 percent in the nation.

Thirty-four percent of African-American students scored at or above basic, compared to 27 percent in large cities and 32 percent in the nation. Seven percent of black students in Charlotte scored proficient or higher, compared to six percent for large cities and eight percent in the nation.

Forty percent of Hispanic students in Charlotte scored at or above basic, compared to 37 percent in large cities and 41 percent in the nation. Eleven percent of those were proficient or higher in Charlotte, compared to 10 percent in large cities and 12 percent in the nation.

A renewed focus on science statewide – the End-of-Grade science test was added in 2008 – has helped CMS strengthen its science curriculum. The district has also added specific programs to attract students to science and math.

"We have some fantastic science programs that have been growing in the last several years," Dr. Gorman said. "Camp Invention, which helps teachers with science teaching and student with science learning, has grown to 50 elementary schools this year – and next year 100 schools will participate. Teachers' use of Discovery Education, which is a multimedia program for teaching science – and which is headquartered here in Charlotte – has been growing steadily in the past two years. Our Engineering is Elementary program is also spreading to more elementary schools. We've seen more schools taking part in science fairs and national science competitions, too. All of these programs help interest students by providing hands-on, lively lessons in science."

CMS has also benefited from strong partnerships in the community that help show students how math and science are used in business, said Dr. Cindy Moss, the district's director of pre-K-12 math and science. These programs show students how math and science are applied in every kind of business and industry, and they happen because of strong local support for education.

"We've got something for almost every grade level that shows how math and science are used every day all over Charlotte," Dr. Moss said. "Ninth-graders benefit from our partnership with Johnson & Wales University, where they learn about the chemistry of food. Tenth-graders, sixth-graders and geometry students benefit from our partnership with the Speed Channel, where they see how math and science are used to broadcast races like Daytona. Fifth-graders learn about the physics of flight, thanks to a partnership with Goodrich, the Carolina Raptor Center and the Carolinas Aviation Museum. Seventh-graders learn about forces in motion, thanks to partnerships with Hendricks Motorsports and Bank of America. High school students learn about the physics of safe driving through a partnership with Richard Petty, and about the chemistry of soft drinks through a partnership with Coca-Cola."

The CMS performance on the NAEP tests drew praise from state education officials.

"We applaud Charlotte-Mecklenburg fourth- and eighth-graders for outperforming public school students in large cities on the 2009 NAEP Science assessments. These higher scores were the result of hard work from district and school leaders, teachers and students," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "High school graduates need science skills in college and careers in the global economy so it is good to see that CMS students are already on track for future success."

The National Assessment for Educational Progress tracks public schools' academic achievement by assessing a sample of students in all 50 states. A group of 18 cities, including Charlotte, also participate in the Trial Urban District Assessment, which looks at the student achievement in those cities.

The NAEP assessments are often referred to as the nation's report card. The assessments began in reading and math more than 30 years ago; science is a relatively recent addition. The tests are widely considered rigorous. Scores are provided for states and cities, but not for individual students or schools.

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