Demopolis BOE reviews ACT Aspire data

Proudly sharing the results of the High-Stakes Assessment for the ACT Aspire done in the spring, Demopolis City Schools superintendent Dr. Al Griffin said the system now has data on which to build.

“From a first performance, it’s a good start,” Griffin said at the school board meeting Monday night.

The assessments not only gave composite scores for each grade but provided data on each student so that teachers can know their strengths and weaknesses.

This time last year, Griffin told the board, schools knew they would be using all new assessments.

“It was sort of sifting our way through the wilderness and through the dark, you might say,” he said. “We were getting [students] ready for something we were unsure was coming.”

Third graders were above the national average in math and close to or at the national average in reading and science. Those in the fourth grade were at or below in those three areas.

While English scores were below average, 60 percent of the third graders and 58 percent of those in the fourth grade tested proficient.

Fifth graders showed levels matching the national average in reading and a marked improvement in English skills. The grade was far ahead of the national average in math. No testing was done in science.

Griffin pointed out how well the writing assessment improved over the three years, ranging from 9 percent in the third grade to the national average of 24 percent in the fifth grade.

At the middle school, the sixth and seventh graders hovered around the national average in all tested areas. Students in the eighth grade were above the national average in reading, were on par in science and lagged slightly in English and math.

Writing skills fell below the national average, but plans already are in place to work on those skills.

Griffin next turned to ACT scores since 2006 for all high school students preparing for college. At no time has Demopolis High School ranked at the state average.

Last year, however, all high school juniors in the state took the ACT. Using the scores from that class, the DHS composite score was 18.5 compared to the state average of 18.3.

“There is your data. There is investing in our children,” he said. “I really believe you’re going to see some improvement.”

One of the factors in the improvement is the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses at the high school. Last year 238 students were in AP classes compared to 103 the previous year. Of those, 46 received AP qualifying scores compared to 37 the previous year. DHS now has seven AP courses, up from four.

Four-year core graduation rate is 88 percent, well above the state average. The immediate goal is 90 percent, with the ultimate goal of 100 percent, he continued.

The ACT assessments were not done at the lower elementary level, but Westide Elementary School principal Tony Pittman said scores from the standard testing done with his students in the spring “were as high as they’ve ever been.”

During the discussion after his presentation, principals said many parents are concerned about the math being taught and not being able to help their children at home. Pittman, USJ principal Dr. Leon Clark and DMS principal Blaine Hathcock said they are working on ways to provide tutorials to parents.

Board member Linda Russell said that from her visits to classrooms she is pleased with how students are taking to the math. “It’s good to see how the students are engaged,” she said. “It’s making them see the reason for it.”