Local schools perform well

By Chuck Kajer, Managing Editor

The New Prague Area Schools received their test scores from the reading and math portions of the MCA-II exams, which students took during the past school year. District officials are pleased with the improvements the students showed in the exams from the previous year, and will use the testing data to improve curriculum in order to increase scores in areas that show a need for improvement.

The tests are part of the No Child Left Behind federal initiative, which was passed nine years ago, in an unlikely alliance between Republican (Pres. George W. Bush) and Democratic (the late Sen. Ted Kennedy) leaders.

The tests are used by state officials to decide if schools are making progress in improving their educational delivery systems. As a result, school district officials pore over the results of the tests each summer, looking for areas in which the district might need improvement. At the same time, the results can reinforce past efforts. For example, a subgroup of students in special education scored below state standards in the middle school math exams last year. The middle school staff placed an added emphasis in this area and worked hard to bring up those scores. The result was a 10 percent improvement over the previous year's scores.

Many people have valid concerns regarding evaluating schools based solely on test results. However, there is little doubt that the system has caused schools to look more closely at what they are teaching and how they are teaching it. This has created more accountability in schools, forcing some underperforming schools to make necessary changes that might not otherwise have been possible.

The New Prague Area Schools have worked hard to improve scores and made changes when necessary. For instance, the district recently moved up implementation of a new math curriculum when results from two years ago showed that the district's scores were lagging.

No Child Left Behind has its flaws, but in assessing its goals of increasing accountability and improving education, it may be serving its purpose.

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