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News Education Interim superintendent presents challenge to the school board

Dr. Jim DuncanTest scores ‘not even close’ to where they should be.

The Macon County Board of Education got a stern wake up call last week from Interim Superintendent Dr. Jim Duncan. He addressed the board regarding Macon County's 2011 test scores.

According to Dr. Duncan, based on the school district's End of Grades test scores, and ACT benchmark test, which is taken in the 11th grade to determine a student's preparedness for college level courses, Macon County is far below where they should be as a district.

“If you look at our test results based on surrounding counties, we are not even close to where we should be testing,” said Dr. Duncan. “There is no reason why we should be testing below average, or even average compared to other districts in the Western region of the state. As a district we have to shift our priorities and make sure that we are offering the best education for our students to prepare them for the next level of their education.”

Dr. Duncan presented a challenge to the board moving forward in the school year.

“Macon County is deserving of having its schools prepare students for college and Macon County is deserving of having its schools prepare students for high performance careers. Far too many of our students are attending community college and fouryear universities without adequate preparation for success at these schools. Fifty-three percent of all jobs in North Carolina will require some post-secondary training beyond high school. By 2018, new jobs in North Carolina requiring post-secondary education and training will grow by 322,000 while jobs for high school graduates and dropouts will grow by 157,000. We can’t afford to ignore the fact that students need to be prepared for the new jobs market.

“Academic preparedness is a challenge. How did we get to the point where nearly two-thirds of community college students are enrolled in a remedial course? Over 20 percent of all high school graduates who go to college are required to take remedial courses. During the 2009 -10 school year, over 50 percent of students enrolled in a North Carolina Community College took a remedial mathematics course.

“This challenge for our county begins with parents being supportive and encouraging of higher expectations in today’s classrooms. Teachers and administrators need to closely monitor schedules, instructional time on task, and sequencing of courses especially at the high school level. Our problem is not isolated with any one school grade level, or organizational chart. It is a system-wide challenge that can be met with supportive parents and dedicated professionals in our schools.

“The diversity of our decentralized system of education leaves the definition of what constitutes a rigorous curriculum lacking. However, several organizations have defined the following as rigorous:

  • 4 years of English
  • 4 years of Math-Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and one other Advanced Math
  • 3 years of Lab Science-Biology, Chemistry, Physics
  • 3 years of Social Studies
  • 2 years of a World Language

“This rigorous high school curriculum is not possible unless all courses across all grade levels teach thinking skills, comprehension skills, writing skills, and computational skills. The Common Core Standards adopted this year in all our schools is a step in the right direction.

“Our middle school should ensure that the academic core of English, Math, Science and Social Studies is challenging enough. The recent National Assessment at Eighth Grade found that at least one-third of middle grade students are not prepared for challenging high school courses.

“Our elementary grades should be prepared to increase the expectations of each student, closely monitor instructional time, and provide experiences for all children that are based upon common materials and across grade level assignments that require the students to go beyond rote repetition and worksheet assignments.

“Parents must clearly understand and support higher standards. This can be accomplished by frequent conferences, meaningful home assignments, and a partnership with the school that encourages reading to and with their child.

“The task is upon us as we should accept the challenge of making Macon County education the best it can be.”

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