McCOOK, Nebraska -- Although McCook students this year scored above the state average at every level in writing assessments, proficiency scores dropped due to a new, more rigorous test given in 8th and 11th grades.
Proficiency scores dipped across the state due to the new testing, said McCook School Superintendent Grant Norgaard at the regular McCook School Board meeting Monday night.
State writing assessments are given yearly in 4th, 8th and 11th grades, with fourth graders asked to write a narrative, eight graders, a descriptive piece and 11th graders, persuasive.
New testing standards for 8th and 11th grades meant the test was condensed from two days to one. It also included a new scoring system with four weighted areas.
Before, tests were scored in six areas that were evaluated equally. With the new scoring, four areas are scored that are weighted separately, with ideas and content, 35 percent, word choice, 20 percent, organization, 25 percent, and convention (sentence fluency) at 20 percent.
The new test was given to better prepare students for the business world, Norgaard said, where writing must be delivered concisely and coherently in a short amount of time.
McCook Senior High had 115 11th graders take the test. Of that number, 31 percent exceeded the state standard, 34 percent met the standard and 35 percent scored below the state standard.
At the junior high, 96 were tested in eighth grade, with 27 percent exceeding the state standard, 54 percent meeting the state standard and 19 percent below the standard.
At McCook Elementary, 89 fourth grade students were tested, with 94 percent meeting the state average and 6 percent scoring below the state standard.
Fourth grade students score significantly better than last year and scored the highest since state tests were given, Norgaard said.
Similar scores were seen from near-by schools. For Southwest Junior/Senior High, with 26 students taking the test, 12 percent exceeded the standard, 35 percent met the standard and 54 percent were below the standard. At Hitchcock County Junior/Senior High, with 10 students taking the test, 10 percent exceeded the standard, 40 percent met the standard and 50 percent scored below the standard. See additional information here.
Adapting to this new test will take some time and different teaching strategies, Norgaard said. Prior to the new testing system, eighth and 11th grade scores were above the 90th percentile, he said.
Norgaard commended the teachers who "have done an outstanding job" preparing students for the tests.
"Nebraska is a tough state, compared to the rest of the nation," in writing assessments, he told the board.
He indicated that although the majority of students scored above the state standard, there was still room to improve.
"We still have work to do," he said.