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Published Tue, Oct 16, 2012 08:00 PM
Modified Tue, Oct 16, 2012 06:09 PM

Schools upbeat on test scores

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- dquizon@newsobserver.com

Johnston school board members on Tuesday digested a number of issues, including test scores, a new technology policy and fallout from the state’s school-calendar law.

While more Johnston students are taking the SAT and Advanced Placement tests, scores remain relatively stable, Chief Academic Officer Rodney Peterson told the board. Test scores tend to fall as the number of test-taker rises.

In Johnston this past school year, more students took the SAT and AP tests. Peterson sees the increases as a sign that more students in the county are aiming for college.

“That should make everybody on our board, in this room and in our school feel very proud,” he said.

In Johnston last school year, the number of seniors taking the SAT grew by 0.4 percent. But while the average score fell by 10 points, the county’s combined score of 999 was still two points above the state average.

More Johnston students are also taking AP exams. Students who take AP classes may take an exam at the end of the class. Those who score 3 or higher earn college credit.

In 2012, Johnston County administered 1,456 AP exams, up from 1,072 in 2010. Meanwhile, the percentage of students scoring 3 or higher fell by two points.

Peterson said he was just glad to see a higher rate of participation in the AP program. “Our AP courses are opening up to nontraditional students,” he said. “And to be honest with you, they’re taking advantage of what we’re offering.”

New tech policy

Also on Tuesday, board members heard a draft of a new technology policy that would allow school employees greater freedom on the school’s system’s network. That freedom could be extended to students in the future, said Superintendent Ed Croom.

Currently, employees are allowed to access the network only on school-owned devices, including computers and tablets. The board is considering loosening that rule to allow employees to access the network with their personal devices.

It’s a small change, but Croom said the idea is to eventually allow students to connect to the network with their personal devices, including cell phones.

“They could actually look at their math presentation on their iPhone,” he said. “This is the just the first step.”

The board will vote on the policy proposal at its Nov. 15 meeting.

Calendar mix-up

The state’s new school-calendar law has the county scrambling to change next year’s calendar.

The N.C. General Assembly has changed the calendar to mandate 185 days, or 1,025 hours, of instruction annually. But until now, the state has granted waivers to the law, allowing school systems to keep to the old calendar of 180 days or 1,000 hours. The waivers end next year.

Johnston is likely to adhere to the new law by reducing the number of teacher workdays, but that will reduce training opportunities, said Robin Little, the school system’s chief business officer.

“That creates very little opportunity for professional development,” she told the board.

Other provisions in the law might spell the end of the county’s academic enhancement calendar, a program that gives students at some schools a shorter summer break and more frequent breaks throughout the year. South Smithfield and West Smithfield elementary schools might have to revert to a traditional calendar, Little said.

Only legislation from the General Assembly could allow those schools to continue using the alternative calendar, Little said.

Croom said that’s a possibility. “We’ve done some homework on it,” he said. “We’ve got more to come.”

Quizon: 919-836-5768

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