Friday, July 31, 2015

ACT Aspire Results for Spring 2015

As promised by the state, we have received our ACT Aspire results much sooner this year.  Reports are still being released, so there are things we don't know yet, but we've seen enough so far to know that we have a lot to celebrate in the 2015 scores.

The ACT Aspire assessments are given in the 3rd through 8th grade (in 2016, they will extend through the 10th grade).  The tests are aligned with the same ACT test that high school juniors and seniors take to qualify for college admission.  In 2015, students were tested in the areas of English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science.  Students scores fall into the category of Ready (the student is on track to meet college readiness benchmarks on the ACT), Close (the student is below but near the readiness benchmark), and Needs Intervention (the student is below the readiness benchmark).  If you want to know more about the student score reports, follow this link

The English test focuses primarily on the development of language skills.  The college readiness benchmark for this test is based on typical performance in a first-year college English composition course.  Based on the spring 2015 results, 82% of our students are Ready in this area (a 2% increase from 2014).  The National Percentile Rank (NPR) for all students in this area was 63.3 (this means our students scored as well as 63.3% of the national population who took this test).  
The Mathematics test focuses on the ability to solve problems, justify mathematical explanations for why things work the way they do, and use mathematical drawings and expressions as models for understanding problems.  The college readiness benchmark for this test is based on typical performance in a first-year college mathematics course, and because mathematics is challenging for the typical college freshman, this is a more difficult benchmark for students to reach.  Based on the spring 2015 results, 65% of our students are Ready in this area (a 5% increase from 2014).  The NPR for all students in this area was 68.3. 
The Reading test focuses on the understanding increasingly challenging text and integrating knowledge and ideas from different sources.  The college readiness benchmark for this test is based on typical performance in a first-year college history course.  Based on the spring 2015 results, 58% of our students are Ready in this area (a 3% increase from 2015).  The NPR for all students in this area was 65.3.  
The Science test focuses on the use of science practices using investigations of real-world scenarios. The college readiness benchmark for this test is based on typical performance in a first-year college biology course, and like mathematics, this is a difficult benchmark to reach because college biology is a course in which a lot of college freshmen will struggle.  This was the first year that we assessed grades 3 through 8 using the Aspire Science test.  Based on the spring 2015 results, 55% of our students are Ready in this area.  The NPR for all students in this area was 65.3. 
Because 2015 was the second year that we have administered the ACT Aspire, we received a new score category this year for those students who took Aspire tests in both 2014 and 2015.  This new score category is a Growth Percentile, and it represents the degree to which each student increased his or her score from one year to the next in comparison with the national population.  A Growth Percentile higher than 50 means that a student made greater gains than at least half of the national population, and our combined scores for all tests except Science exceeded that measure.  Growth Percentile was not reported for Science this year because 2015 was the first year for our students.  Growth Percentile scores for the other tested areas were:  
  • English- 55.0
  • Mathematics- 54.9
  • Reading- 53.2
I am very proud of our students and teachers for the great improvements evident in this year's scores. We must always be careful about reading too much, for good or bad, into a single measurement of any kind.  What the data says is not as important as how we respond to the data as educators.  When we see evidence that students are growing and improving, it helps us to know that we are doing the right things.  I am excited for the future of this school system and the children it serves!  

Ron Dodson, PhD
Assistant Superintendent of Instruction
Hoover City Schools 

Civics and Government Awareness Month: August 2015

The Alabama State Department of Education has designated August 2015 as Civics and Government Awareness Month.  Dr. Bice is encouraging teachers and school leaders to visit the Alabama legislature to witness state government in action, so they can share firsthand with their students what they learned from the visit.  The Alabama legislature's special session reconvenes on August 3, 2015 and may continue through August 11 and provides an opportunity to see government in action as we start a new school year.

The ALSDE also encourages 7th Grade Civics and 12th Grade Government teachers to consider the following exploring the following activities during August:

  • Review the roles and responsibilities of local school board members, state school board members, county commissioners, and city council members.
  • Visit a meeting conducted by any of the above governmental entities.
  • Invite school board members and other elected or appointed officials to visit a classroom in one or more of your schools.
  • Review the three branches of state government and focus on the roles and responsibilities of your state representatives and senators in the Alabama legislature. Invite your legislators to visit your classroom.
  • Review the structure of the three branches of federal government and focus on the roles and responsibilities of the US Congress and Alabama's Congressional delegation.
The month of August also coincides with the US Congressional break, and some of our national leaders could be invited to visit your classrooms.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

HCS Students earn record number of International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas and record number of Advanced Placement (AP) qualifying scores

The 2015 Hoover High School International Baccalaureate (IB) graduates earned an unprecedented number of IB diplomas.  HHS had 38 students going for the full IB diploma and 31 of those students made the required scores to earn this prestigious diploma, recognized worldwide as a mark of exemplary achievement.  Both of these numbers are record highs for Hoover City Schools.

IB Coordinator, Brad Coltrane made the following observation about the 2015 IB graduating class.  "In addition to the record number of students earning diplomas, we also saw an increase in students taking individual IB exams, which allows students the benefits of IB classes with additional flexibility. In most subjects, Hoover IB students score well above the national and worldwide averages.  Passing one IB exam is considered a key indicator of college success; all of our IB diploma students passed three or more."

He continues to say, "I am extremely proud of our pass rate of 82%.  Our district goal is 80%, because it shows you are providing students a very strong chance of success and also providing the opportunity for students who may struggle, have to work harder, or care more about the process than the result.  We had numerous students in the class who overcame personal and academic obstacles to complete the program, and they are all very well prepared for college."

The 2015 HHS IB classmembers are not only very capable in the classroom, but in all areas of life.  Several will be attending college on both athletic and academic scholarships.  Some are award-winning artists and musicians.  One will be serving our county in the U.S. Marine Corps.  Hoover IB graduates will be freshmen this fall at Princeton, Yale, Georgetown, Alabama, Duke, Columbia, UAB, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Berea, and Rhodes.

In addition to historical IB success, Hoover City Schools also saw an unprecedented number of qualifying scores on Advanced Placement exams.  Hoover and Spain Park High School students took 1,440 Advanced Placement exams.  Our students earned a qualifying score on 925 of these exams!  Congratulations to all of these students and to the teachers from kindergarten through grade 12 who prepared them to undertake rigorous college-level coursework while in high school.

A qualifying score on an AP exam has the potential to earn our students college credit at many colleges and universities.  The average cost of a three-hour course at Alabama and Auburn is approximately $1,000.  If each of the 925 qualifying scores resulted in a single course worth of credit at Alabama or Auburn, Hoover families would save $925,000 in college tuition based on this year's results!  While not every score will earn college credit (or some students will not opt for the college credit), many of our students will go to out-of-state colleges and prestigious private universities where the tuition costs are much greater.  Hoover City Schools does a great service to our students and their families by preparing them for success in AP.

One of the areas of extraordinary success in AP is the social studies department of Spain Park High School.  Under the leadership of department chair, Richard Stamper, and Craig Thompson, Spain Park students earned 204 qualifying scores in this discipline alone including 72 qualifying scores in Human Geography and 70 qualifying scores in U. S. History.  When asked about the success of the social studies program Mr. Stamper stated, "Our belief at SPHS is that enrollment in AP courses is critical if our school is to remain one of the strongest academic high schools in Alabama. Even for students who do not "pass" the AP exam, exposure to the rigor of the AP US History curriculum is critical as they move into a university setting.  The growth of the AP US History program, along with solid pass rates, are clear indicators that there continues to be untapped academic potential within the students of Hoover City Schools."  These teachers encourage students who have not previously considered Advanced Placement to take on the challenge of these courses--and their results speak for themselves.  Congratulations, SPHS social studies teachers and students!

Another notable area of achievement in Advanced Placement is physics.  Even at many very large high schools like HHS and SPHS, there is a small enrollment in AP physics.  Between both of our high schools, our students earned 107 qualifying scores in an AP physics class; 44 in AP Physics 1 and 63 in calculus based AP physics, mechanics.

Jeff Johnson, who moved from HHS to SPHS last year to grow the AP physics program there, made the following comment, "We finished our first year of AP Physics 1 and AP Physics C at Spain Park and I could not be more proud of these remarkable students. These students stepped up to the challenge of AP Physics and demonstrated a tremendous amount of growth over the year.  They never gave up, never stopped accepting the challenges that were thrown at them.  I am proud of the scores they achieved but, more than any number, I am proud of the perseverance and 'grittiness' they demonstrated.  If I could give my students a gift, it would be the ability to see themselves through my eyes and realize how special they are.  I am so so proud of them."

Dr. Mark Conner directs the engineering department at HHS and teaches calculus based AP physics.  His former students continue to share with him the value of what they learned in his course.  Ashley Garner, Class of 2013, wrote to Dr. Conner, "Thank you for making me take AP Physics C.  I would be totally lost in Engineering Physics 1600 right now, and I definitely would not have scored 53 percentage points above the class average on our fist exam (had I not taken this class.)"

HCS students also earned qualifying scores in biology, calculus, chemistry, computer science, English language, English literature, environmental science, European history, Chinese, German, Japanese, Spanish, economics, music theory, psychology, statistics, art and U. S. government.

In addition to a record number of AP qualifying scores, Hoover City Schools had an unprecedented number of students earning recognition from the College Board because of their achievement on AP exams during their high school careers.  The College Board recognizes four different levels of achievement which are summarized in the table below:

Note:  A qualifying score on an AP exam is a score of 3, 4 or 5.
Hoover High School Awardees
Spain Park High School Awardees
District Awardees
AP Scholar
A score of ‘3’ or better on 3 or more
AP Exams
AP Scholar with Honor
An average score of ‘3.25’ or higher on all AP exams taken, and scores of ‘3’ or better on four or more of these exams
AP Scholar with Distinction
An average score of ‘3.5’ or higher on all AP exams taken, and scores of ‘3’ or better on five or more of these exams
National AP Scholar
An average score of ‘4’ or higher on all AP exams taken, and scores of ‘4’ or higher on eight or more of these exams

One of the students earning the National AP Scholar recognition was SPHS graduate, Elizabeth Sturgeon.  Elizabeth's parents, Richard and Jill Sturgeon are teachers at HHS and SPHS respectively, and Richard is the AP U. S. History teacher at HHS.  Elizabeth will be attending Samford University this fall where she will BEGIN with 28 hours of college credit, just shy of being a sophomore before her first day of college!  When asked about her AP experience she said, "Beyond the advanced material in AP, I am glad that I have had teachers who pushed beyond the AP curriculum to help me think and just be educated.  I am appreciative that AP goes beyond the test to deeper learning.  I had some of the best teachers who challenged me.  Plus, thanks to Mr. Carboni's AP Calculus class, I do not have to take Calculus in college."

In addition to Elizabeth, other SPHS National AP Scholars were Rachel Ferrell, Ayaka Fujihashi, Veena Krishnan, Christina McLaughlin, and Joshua Taggert.  Rebecca Townsend from HHS also earned the National AP Scholar designation.  Congratulations to these outstanding students!