Summit School District outperforms state in recently released test results
Colorado’s Department of Education released district- and school-level state testing results on Thursday, and, in a continuing trend, Summit County remains ahead of the curve.
Scores from last fall’s state exams in English and math, to go along with prior releases in social studies and science testing in August, show that the Summit School District outperformed the state average almost across the board. That was wholly true in English and science, while also confirmed in math in all but third and eighth grades and all but fourth grade for social studies.
In the grade-level English exams, Summit exhibited a 53-percent proficiency for sixth-graders compared to the state mark of 39 percent; in ninth grade, Summit notched a 56-percent total versus an average of 37 at the state level. The district’s positive math disparities weren’t quite as significant, but still above state norms for the three course-specific evaluations: 39-to-33 in algebra 1; 65-to-59 in geometry; but also notably 82-to-37 in algebra 2.
“This helps us to measure along the way of how we’re doing,” said Kerry Buhler, the district’s superintendent. “We’re always looking at ways to increase the rigor in all of our classrooms, and certainly this is a rigorous test. We know the better we get at delivering the kinds of instruction that this test is testing, the better the results are going to be.”
Prior to moving to the current CMAS (Colorado Measures of Academic Success) and multistate PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) programs in spring 2015, Colorado annually administered the TCAP for several years after succeeding the CSAP. In this second year of the measures, Summit’s scores also improved in many cases compared to the first year of Colorado’s overhauled assessments.
While pleased with the outcome, the district takes the scoring in stride, viewing it as only one in a larger body of evidence for gauging how well students — and instructors — are doing. The other tools include a locally administered, nationally aligned NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) test, as well as general classroom assessments, and then rather than resting on its laurels, it becomes about taking that information and encouraging further advancement.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve and to do better,” added Buhler, “and I think that that’s one thing that these kinds of assessments help us to do. Then we look at what are the next steps to keep those scores moving up, and really, ultimately just say, ‘What are we providing for our kids so that they’re successful?’”
Based on the new data sets, internal discussions are already happening, explained director of assessment and technology Bethany Massey, to address potential gaps and replicate success at one school at another. Particular areas of weakness noted in these results include vocabulary, including language usage and word choice, and efforts continue with the skills of reasoning and justifying that are points of emphasis with the PARCC testing.
“That’s very different than tests of the past where it’s, ‘Is it A, B, C, or D?’” Massey said. “So now it’s ‘Why is it A, B, C or D?’”
From there, developing student supports and interventions to help improve deficiencies and strengthen existing proficiencies is the focus. Members of the administrative team are in the process of visiting each school to suggest strategies to improve instruction and continue professional development opportunities.
Because the CMAS tests are administered on computers rather than with score sheet and pencil, the district is hopeful the forthcoming launch of its One2World, one-to-one, device-to-student initiative this year will contribute to even higher scores when the tests are administered again this spring. It stands to eliminate what was possibly a technology gap from one student or school to the next.
“If they haven’t had a device in their hands for years or even that year, all of a sudden they’re taking a test electronically and that can be really challenging,” said Buhler. “It may not always be as reflective of what they know and can do. We hope this roll out will do that.”
In the meantime, it’s these most recent positive results the district hopes will inspire Summit voters to approve a two-part public funding measure for local education on this November’s ballot. If approved, the bond issue and accompanying mill levy would provide more than $70 million to address necessary building repairs and upgrades due to years of deferred maintenance. The district also intends to use the money to sustain One2World, address growing attendance numbers, as well as review and increase safety and security measures and ADA accessibility.
More specifics of the state testing numbers can be found at the Colorado Department of Education’s website at: http://www.cde.state.co.us/assessment/newassess-parcc. As part of the staggered release of these assessment results, growth data will be available later this fall, as early as the end of this month, with individual school and district performance ratings for the purpose of accreditation and rankings announced then, too.
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