3rd-graders eclipse state test scores
Third-graders set a new milestone in District 51 this spring by becoming the first third-grade class in district history to surpass the state average for grade-level proficiency in reading in Transitional Colorado Assessment Program testing.
TCAP results released by the Colorado Department of Education Wednesday showed the district beat or tied the state average in eight out of 27 tests delivered this spring to third- through 10th-graders in the subjects of math, reading and writing, plus science tests for fifth-, eighth- and 10th-graders. The state outperformed the district in 19 tests, just as it did in 2012.
When it comes to improvement in scores year-over-year, District 51 saw the greatest growth in math and writing, where district score growth slightly outpaced the state average. The district’s reading scores grew at the same pace as the state average.
Low-income students in the district improved their scores year-over-year at a quicker pace than the state average in every subject. A greater portion of low-income students, minorities, students learning English and special education students in the district moved from below grade-level scores to grade-level scores year-over-year in 2013 compared to the state average.
Independence Academy was one of two district schools, along with New Emerson, to have every third-grader score at or above grade level this year in math. New Emerson also scored 100 percent proficient or better in third-grade reading and fourth-grade math. District 51 executives said they can remember only those two schools and Orchard Avenue Elementary ever scoring 100 percent on TCAP or its predecessor, the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests. Orchard Avenue scored 100 percent proficient in third-grade math in 2007.
Independence Academy Principal Damon Lockhart said the school spent more time on math and writing instruction last school year and sent elementary school teachers to a math training. He said the high scores recorded this spring for the school’s elementary students can be credited to having a “sharp group of kids,” but he said there is more room for growth this school year, especially in middle school grades.
“We’re going to continue to try to get new teachers on the same training level as our retained teachers and we have a math intervention coach grant this year,” Lockhart said.
Mesa Valley Vision Home and Community Program elementary grades struggled some this year, with just 9.4 percent of their third-graders scoring at or above grade level in writing. But the district-integrated homeschool program showed above-state-average growth year-over-year in its middle school and high school scores, with its ninth- and 10th-graders outperforming every other district high school in TCAP reading, writing and math.
Vision Program Director Jill Hatten said score growth in upper grades is likely linked to two factors: students being able to move at their own pace and Vision high school students taking traditional algebra and geometry courses at the school’s annex. The district introduced an “integrated math” program in 2009 that blends math concepts at the high school level. Hatten said a speech class at the annex may be added in years to come. The school added a reading specialist to help elementary students this year.
Grande River Virtual Academy had better high school scores this year than last year but its middle school fell behind, with zero middle-schoolers at the online school moving from below grade-level up to grade-level in math this year and just a third of GRVA middle school students maintaining grade-level work in writing.
Sharon Kallus, principal of both Broadway Elementary and Grande River, said the online program did a better job in its second year as a school for all grades of enrolling families who are a good fit for the online education model. Many students have fallen behind before enrollment and need extra time to catch up, Kallus said. Still, the school is making some changes this year based on 2013 TCAP results, including encouraging more face-to-face contact between students and teachers and among classmates. Starting this year, middle and high school students have to come to GRVA’s campus at Broadway once a month to meet with a mentor.
“The expectations have been raised in terms of involvement and commitment at the building. We have great relationships (online), but face-to-face meetings extend those even more,” Kallus said.
Although TCAP results are fresh to the public, teachers and principals at each local public school have been working since last week to develop a plan based on the data. Each plan, due in writing to district leaders by mid-October, sets specific, numerical targets for where staff would like next year’s scores to be. The plans also include action plans that describe what actions should be taken to help students achieve those anticipated results.
Next year’s state standardized testing will look a little different. TCAP reading, writing and math tests will remain but a new, online social studies test will be introduced for fourth- and seventh-graders. Fifth- and eighth-grades will continue to take a science test, but the test will be given online and will not be administered next year to 10th-graders.
The science and social studies tests will be administered to at least one high school grade starting in spring 2015. That same spring, TCAP reading, writing and math tests will be replaced with new, computer-based math and English language arts tests.