Summit School District’s scores slip, but remain ahead of state for academic growth
The Summit School District is still ahead of the state curve, but test scores fell slightly from the prior academic year, according to data released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Education.
The Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS, assessment results from the state’s 178 school districts indicate statewide gains compared to last year that span nearly every grade level in each of English language arts, mathematics and science. The local public school system can say that of just four of 18 areas, though its scores remain ahead — in several cases notably so — of state averages in all but three categories.
“We do see that we are typically almost across the board scoring above the state,” said Kerry Buhler, superintendent of the Summit School District. “However, we know that these scores are something that we would want to improve upon, and that’s really our work.”
Math continues to be a particular area where the district desires improvement, and one articulated in its overall strategic plan. Roughly 40 percent of Summit fifth-graders met or exceeded expectations in the concentration, for example, and less than 27 percent of Summit sixth-graders did the same.
That disparity of scores in making the transition from the elementary schools to middle school, and then middle to high school, is of specific emphasis for district administration.
“That’s something we continue to look at — what is causing that, and what can we do to improve it?” said Bethany Massey, the district’s director of assessment and technology.
2 + 2 = 4
To try and solve the math equation, the district recently elevated four teachers to new positions. Their primary focus will be helping get students get over their struggles with arithmetic, as well as coaching teachers up through additional professional development and in-class support.
Former Summit Middle School seventh-grade math teachers Alisha Delamarian and Lana McLaughlin will partner to give special attention to the middle and high school. Delamarian is the district’s new assessment coordinator and McLaughlin is its first secondary education manager.
Former Upper Blue Elementary literary resource teacher Lara Jackman will function as the new district elementary education manager and partner with math coach Jaime Levi, previously a third-grade teacher and International Baccalaureate coordinator. The two education manager jobs are the result of splitting the responsibilities of former assistant superintendent Cathy Beck, who left the district in May.
“What that is hopefully going to afford us is to be obviously in two places at one time, but also to really focus specifically on those levels and what’s happening both with our curriculum and our instruction, and then ultimately what we’re assessing,” said Buhler. “So we’re taking the experts we have in the district and giving them not just some opportunities, but also they know our district, they know our kids, they know our challenges.”
On Summit’s English exams, grades three through nine, the district saw growth of nearly 10 percentage points at the eighth-grade level, but dropped at least a bit in the other six grades. In science testing, the scores stayed relatively flat for fifth grade, sixth grade and general high school.
The 2016-17 academic year was also the first time 10th-graders and 11th-graders took the PSAT and SAT, respectively. Summit outperformed the rest of Colorado as well as the nation on the PSAT, though both the local district and state missed the mark compared to national numbers on the SAT.
The release from the state’s Department of Education does note that in many other states only students who intend to go to college complete the SAT, whereas all high schoolers in Colorado now take it. That self-selection of higher achievers can skew the results.
On the PSAT, Summit finished with a score of 481.9 in reading and writing and 480.5 in math. The state came in at 478 and 469, and the nation turned in scores of 468 and 464.
The national results for the SAT were 539 on reading and writing and 535 on math. Summit 11th-graders came in at 517 and 517.9 versus Colorado at 513 and 501.
“Those post-secondary, workforce-readiness-type assessments, which is the PSAT and SAT, we’re testing all students, and a lot of times there hasn’t been a lot of prep for the test or exam,” said Massey. “So that has been a lot of the conversation — how do we prepare students for these types of exams? We looked at that last year and we’re going to continue to delve into that this year in how do we support students in taking the PSAT and SAT?”
With summer updates to its strategic plan — what the district is calling Vision 2020 2.0 — and the added roles to bolster some areas of weakness, the Summit School District hopes to take these results and reach improvement as well as higher marks in the future.
“We’re really trying to be more proactive then reactive,” said Buhler. “Obviously state data is largely reactive, however, we don’t want to dismiss it. We want to make sure that we are paying attention and using what it affords us in terms of moving forward.”
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