ERB Scores: Top 90th Percentile in Reading, Math & Vocabulary
The annual release of ERB data shows average scores from the 2015 graduating class were outstanding. The class median score came in at 98th percentile nationally on vocabulary scores, 97th percentile in Reading Comprehension and 97th percentile in Math. This exemplary news is revealed as Powhatan School released assessment results in the Upper School this week.
“The high scores are a reflection of a combination of the many facets of the Powhatan School education,” commented Head of School Susan C. Scarborough. “We have terrific students who are pushed and challenged by an outstanding faculty and the high scores across the board, especially in the Math section, correlate with the emphasis Powhatan puts on STEM education.”
The Vocabulary scores are always amongst the highest areas for Powhatan students year after year. The scores begin to increase significantly in sixth grade, which is attributed to a strong focus on vocabulary. “We’ve seen an increase of a full stanine on the vocabulary section since Mrs. Jaffe came onboard,” points out Mr. Holloway, the Mathematics Department Chair. “That was an area we wanted to focus on as a school a little over ten years ago and we’ve seen amazing results.”
Those dramatic increases are attributed to curriculum adjustments and a deliberate and explicit approach to teaching vocabulary in English class. “We don’t focus on the scores,” says Jaffe. “The scores are just a reflection of our everyday practices in the classroom.”
Each year Mr. Holloway coordinates the data findings and explained how they are used in the Upper School. “If you look at the data, we have some obvious exceptionally strong areas in math and vocabulary. In Upper School Math we use the tests to identify individual strengths and weaknesses of the children and we meet as a faculty in the summer before school starts to make adjustments to the curriculum to address those specific needs. For example, if a child needs advanced instruction in math, we are able to incorporate that piece into the schedule and continually challenge the child in a very personalized setting.”
“We don’t allow tests to drive our curriculum, it’s the curriculum that allows our students to do so well on the tests.”
When asked why his students specifically fare so well in math, Mr. Holloway immediately refers to the strong emphasis on reading across the school. “The superb foundation the students have in reading correlates heavily with the ability to decipher complex word problems. The higher they go in math, the more they need to understand the context of the problem. If you can’t use math in context, then what is the point of the math?”
“So in math class we are just teaching reading from a different perspective, a different context, continues Holloway. “The skills needed to read successfully in math are a little different than that of reading a novel, so their critical thinking skills just continue to sharpen in both areas.”
Ms. Scarborough pointed out that the test is used as an internal measurement. “The primary purpose for using the ERB testing is three-fold. First, it allows us to compare Powhatan with schools across the nation, ensuring our standard of quality. Second, it allows our teachers to compare year-long in-class performance of our children with standardized testing, and third, it helps us identify strengths and weaknesses of individual students.”
Families not familiar with the Independent School setting sometimes confuse the lack of state-run mandatory standardized testing with a general lack of assessment. “This couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Scarborough, “we just see it from the other direction. We use these measurements, such as the ERB, to confirm that the education at Powhatan is exceptional. We don’t allow tests to drive our curriculum, it’s the curriculum that allows our students to do so well on the tests.”
The scores from Upper School students indicate that this philosophy is alive and well at Powhatan.
“What we have found is that our students constantly rank in the top percentiles nationally with public school students and that the curriculum maintains these high levels of quality year after year. It is a good benchmark of how well our curriculum addresses core areas that prepare our children for rigorous high school and college achievement.”
The testing also allows for benchmarking with selective independent schools across the nation. “It is possible to compare the national norms taken from the ERB testing with the national norms of testing done by local public school systems or other independent schools. This will illustrate the strength of the students we have at Powhatan year after year,” continued Scarborough. “At Powhatan, however, we consider the independent school norms produced by the ERB’s to compare our students with students from the very best independent schools in the country. “
The Educational Records Bureau (ERB) tests are given to fourth grade through eighth grade each year in the final trimester.
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