McCOOK, Nebraska -- Results of reading tests taken in the spring of 2010 by all of Nebraska's third through eighth graders and eleventh graders indicate that, on average, 70 percent of McCook Public Schools' students are meeting or exceeding state reading standards.
Although pleased that McCook's students scored above the state average of 68.6 percent of students meeting or exceeding reading standards, MPS Superintendent Grant Norgaard said this morning he's not satisfied.
Two of McCook's classes -- seventh and eighth grades -- scored way above that 70 percent average. Results indicate that 79 percent of eighth graders are meeting/exceeding standards, while 83 percent of seventh graders are meeting/exceeding standards.
McCook's scores, released by the Nebraska State Department of Education Wednesday, show that:
* Of 118 eleventh graders, 56 percent meet standards, 12 percent exceed standards, (68 percent meet or exceed standards) and 32 percent are below standards.
* Of 105 eighth graders, 62 percent meet standards, 17 percent exceed standards, (79 percent meet or exceed standards) and 21 percent are below standards.
* Of 92 seventh graders, 45 percent meet standards, 38 percent exceed standards, (83 percent meet or exceed standards) and 17 percent are below standards.
* Of 91 sixth graders, 48 percent meet standards, 16 percent exceed standards, (64 percent meet or exceed standards) and 35 percent are below standards.
* Of 103 fifth graders, 44 percent meet standards, 23 percent exceed standards, (67 percent meet or exceed standards) and 33 percent are below standards.
* Of 102 fourth graders, 47 percent meet standards, 23 percent exceed standards, (70 percent meet or exceed standards) and 30 percent are below standards.
* Of 114 third graders, 43 percent meet standards, 16 percent exceed standards, (59 percent meet or exceed standards) and 41 percent are below standards.
Norgaard said this morning, "Although we're happy to be above the state average, we're always looking to improve ... to move forward."
Norgaard said he's not satisfied with scores that show room for improvement. "We always want to perform at a higher rate," he said. "We want all our students to meet or exceed state standards." He added, "We won't be satisfied until we reach that goal."
Norgaard said that while the tests show students' reading abilities, the results also help McCook educators make decisions about the district's curriculum and teaching methods. "These scores help guide decisions about what needs to done differently," he said.
McCook educators are in the process now, Norgaard said, of looking at core curriculums to implement in reading.
McCook's seventh and eighth graders last spring are the elementary students who were learning reading and language arts in what were, in McCook in 2006-07, controversial reading programs called Reading First, Walk to Read and Reading Mastery and a teaching method called Direct Instruction.
In the 2006-07 school year, these reading and language arts approaches were in the third year of a three-year federally-funded grant.
McCook's school board called several special meetings and hired an outside consultant when a number of parents became upset with what they called repetitious and boredom-inducing reading programs that destroyed self-confidence and reading comprehension. While many parents spoke against the reading programs, school administrators had as many parents supporting the curriculums.
The consultant recommended small changes in teaching delivery and much better communications between school and home.
While the reading programs and teaching method were controversial, can they be credited for the successful scores of the seventh and eighth graders? Norgaard -- who was not McCook's superintendent in 2006-07 but who said that he is familiar with the situation in McCook four years ago -- said that linking the success of the last spring's seventh and eighth graders with Reading First and Direct Instruction "may be a stretch."
Norgaard said that consistency of scores over time is a "better measure" of student performance, which must also consider math and science scores, and even multiple forms of assessment.