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Effingham students beat national average on ITBS
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The Effingham County Board of Education was presented results from the Iowa Test of Basic Skills that was given to third, fifth and eighth graders in the fall.

The test is required by the state and compares students across the nation. It is a nationally-normed test, as opposed to a criterion referenced test, Assistant Superintendent Gregg Arnsdorff said.

He said the criterion reference tests show if students have learned what they were taught according to state requirements.

“A nationally normed test looks at general knowledge that you may expect any student in the nation to know, and how well they perform against all other students who have taken that same test,” Arnsdorff said.

Arnsdorff said when he was an elementary principal, he chose to give the ITBS to all grade levels before statewide accountability was enacted.

“You can look at your students’ growth from grade to grade and use those grade equivalencies to see how much have you increased,” he said.

Arnsdorff said it’s a type of “temperature check” of how students are performing at the grades they take the test. The test includes sections on reading, language arts, math, social studies, science and sources of information.

Arnsdorff said in the third grade students scores improved from last year’s scores except in the area of sources of information, where they stayed the same in the 76 percentile.

“What that means is our students scored better than 76 percent of all the students in the nation who may have taken that same test,” he said. “The composite score comes in at the 75 percentile, so that’s a very high score.”

Arnsdorff said the scores also have a stanine score, and the third grade students scored a six, or somewhat above average.

“If you look at grade equivalents, these students were administered the test in October, so their grade equivalent should be third grade third month,” he said. “For our third grade students, they scored third grade ninth month.”

Arnsdorff said the results in fifth grade are similar. All of the scores increased from last year.

The total composite score rose by four percentile points to the 69 percentile in the sixth stanine, according to Arnsdorff.

“These students would have been expected to perform at the fifth grade third month level,” he said. “They were actually performing a year ahead at the sixth grade third month level.”

Arnsdorff said that does not mean the students should be in the sixth grade, but that the students performed at the level they would be expected to as a sixth grade student in the third month of school.

He said students in the eighth grade are still performing at the average level, and in some areas are performing somewhat above average particularly in the area of science.

“Their scores rose three percentile point levels this year (in science), but so did social studies and so did language arts,” Arnsdorff said.

He told the board math and sources of information scores remained the same as last year.

“For our composite score, the total rose two percentile points, and we remain on average there,” Arnsdorff said.

He said the students performed at the eighth grade ninth month level and would be expected to perform at the eighth grade third month level.

Arnsdorff said one reason the math score may not be changing is because the test focuses on computation at all grade levels, but Georgia Performance Standards as students increase grade level focuses more on word problems, algebra and geometry skills.

Board Chairperson Vera Jones asked if the changes made to math in the high school and eighth grade would have an impact on students’ math scores on the ITBS. She said the students would have been given the test very early in the new curriculum.

Arnsdorff said that the potential impact is not known.

“You may not ever see as high a math score as in some of our other areas on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills as you will on the other Georgia specific tests may indicate,” he said, “because again teachers are focusing on higher order thinking skills, and this test is really about computation.”

ITBS scores are given to all schools and teachers get an individualized report for every child. Parents also get reports for their children, according to Arnsdorff.

Superintendent Randy Shearouse said all the elementary schools are performing at grade equivalent, though some score differently than others.

“I like the ITBS. I don’t think a lot of students spend a lot of time preparing their students to take that test,” he said.

“So, students go in and take those tests, and it gives us a good snapshot of how our students are doing.”

He said the test is useful, but with all of the state required testing the system only has the required grade levels take the test.