Defense students ahead of national pace
Stars and Stripes August 7, 2006
Students in Department of Defense schools overseas and in the United States generally did as well or slightly better than they did last year on the TerraNova Multiple Assessments taken in March.
Regardless of fluctuations, the students continued to beat the national average on the standardized tests, which are taken in many states.
This year, they outdid the average on individual tests by anywhere from 10 to 26 points. Last year, they outdid it by anywhere from 9 to 27 points.
The results have not been broken down by region or by school, but should be available in coming months, according to David Ruderman, spokesman for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools.
Students grades 3 through 11 are tested on five subjects — reading, language arts, math, science and social studies.
“We wouldn’t trade these scores with anybody,” said Carol Czerw, education chief for Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Europe.
The students may do better on the tests because the families are more stable, with at least one parent working, according to Frank O’Gara, spokesman for Department of Defense Education Activity, which oversees all Defense schools.
Overall, the school system’s scores varied just one or two points from last year.
However, there are some bigger differences:
Third grade: Science scores rose this year from the 66th to 69th percentile;Fourth grade: Science scores rose from the 59th to 63rd percentile;Fifth grade: Science scores rose from the 60th to 63rd percentile;Sixth grade: Science scores rose from the 63rd to 66th percentile;Ninth grade: Science scores fell from the 71st to 68th percentiles;Tenth grade: Social studies scores fell from the 69th to 66th percentile.Compared with other school systems, the Defense schools fared best in language arts, averaging slightly higher than the 68th percentile for all grades. In reading, the system’s percentile averaged just below the 68th.
Science and social studies percentiles averaged slightly lower, just under the 66th percentile overall. In math, the schools’ percentile average was 67.
Overall, 38 of the 45 scores on individual tests were 10 to 20 points above the national average. The other seven scores were 21 to 26 points above average.
In specific grade levels, the Defense schools’ strongest performance was in 10th grade language arts, which came in the 76th percentile.
The weakest was third grade reading, which ranked in the 60th percentile — still 10 points above the national average.
Czerw noted that 10th and 11th graders scored better in reading and language arts than third- and fourth- graders did. It’s rare to see those scores go up as the students get older, she said.
A total of 54,004 of 55,186 Defense school students in grades 3 through 11 took the assessments in March, officials say. The system had roughly 90,500 students in kindergarten through 12th grades during the last school year.
The results — though useful for surveying the strengths and weaknesses of students and schools — are not useful for making comparisons between schools or school systems, said Janet Rope, who oversees DODEA’s accountability, research and assessment divisions.
How they scored
Students in Department of Defense schools overseas and in the United States continue to outdo their colleagues in the Terra Nova standardized national test. Students in each grade scored higher than the national average in every subject.
The average score is 50, meaning 50 percent of the students who took the test scored worse and 50 percent scored better in a particular subject. For instance, third-graders scored in the 69th percentile in science, meaning their scores were better than 69 percent of the students in other schools who took the test.
View this chart to see how the students measure up.
‘No Child’ exemption doesn’t change testing procedures
Department of Defense schools do not have to conform to the No Child Left Behind law, which is followed by civilian schools that accept federal education dollars.
But the school system adheres to the law’s provisions anyway, said Frank O’Gara, a spokesman for the school system.
The law requires 86 percent of a school’s enrollment to be assessed through standardized tests, exempting children struggling with learning disabilities or language barriers.
The Defense school system tested 97.6 percent of all students in March. “Almost all special needs kids take the test just like anyone else,” said Janet Rope, who oversees the system’s accountability, research and assessment divisions.
Because of cognitive impairment or poor English, 246 DODEA students took assessments other than the TerraNova.
The only other students who don’t take the TerraNova are those who are out of school because of severe illness, injury or other circumstances out of their control, Rope said.
The TerraNova assessments let parents see how their children are doing compared with their peers. But administrators use the results to assess their own schools’ performance and improve their curriculum, said Carol Czerw, education chief for Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Europe.
She was elated with the schools’ TerraNova results from March. Still, she said, “The first thing we start thinking is, ‘How can we improve these?’”