Purdy schools state assessment sees big drop

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New strategies focusing on better tracking student performance

When the Annual Performance Review (APR) was announced in August, the Purdy R-2 School District anticipated a drop in its overall rating.

In the 2012-13 school year, the district received 91.8 percent of the possible points. Purdy's 2013-14 score was 79.6 percent.

Superintendent Steven Chancellor anticipated a correction in the way the state calculated its its totals. Because of the size of the drop, patrons received a letter offering some explanations.

The 2013-14 numbers represented only the second year the state had used the current scoring system, Chancellor noted. In addition, the elementary and high schools overall received scores of 92 and 94.3 percent, among the highest in the area. The bigger problem came from the middle school, where the overall point total only reached 70 percent. According to Mindi Gates, instructional and professional development coach, part of that problem stemmed from including fifth grade in with the eighth graders as a middle school class, while many comparable districts leave fifth grade in the elementary.

The 2014 APR recorded significant achievement in several areas:

* The student achievement score for third and fourth graders in both language arts and math rose from 9 out of 16 points to 15 of 16;

* The high school earned all available points (10 of 10) for students taking the ACT college entrance exams and for college and career readiness, measured by the number of students who go on to college as planned, or seek careers in areas of training.

* High school students retained the same score (7.5 of 10) for earning credits on the two available advanced placement classes in math and biology.

"The high school did as well as anyone in the area," Chancellor said. "Last year we thought the numbers were high and the system would correct itself. We knew internally we needed to make a bunch of instructional changes."

Chancellor said any time there is a change, there will likely be a decrease before a rise.

"We call it our implementation dip," Chancellor said. "If we can plan, we see beyond it. It's part of the process. It means we're getting ready to go up."

Gates explained a number of the changes have only recently gone into effect. For example, government is a social studies class available to freshmen at Purdy, while other schools offer it in the junior year. Beginning this year, Purdy began offering government just to juniors.

"In the spring of 2013 we started talking about instruction and thinking strategies in the classroom in all content areas," Gates said. "We've been very vigilant, studying strategies. That's part of what led us to starting Late Start Mondays this year.

"We introduced the Reader's Workshop strategy at the elementary school in 2012-13 and put it into practice last year. We added the Writer's Workshop last spring and got training for it last summer. Now, we're expanding into the middle school. We're working on aligning our middle school science instruction with both the elementary school, so students know what they need before starting middle school, and with the high school, preparing them for the next step."

Measuring student progress more than once a year has also become a way to track progress. Gates said universal screenings, especially at the elementary and middle schools, are now taken at the beginning, middle and end of the years. Acuity tests provide assessments through the year. Added progress tests began only last year at the middle school. Gates said faculty learning teams and collaborative efforts during Late Start Mondays are looking at such data in creating building goals.

"That's why we're not bothered by the numbers," Chancellor said. "We're starting the year with higher numbers than ever. Our reading comprehension number is a grade level higher than ever before. We're working at it. It will just take time to work it through all the grades."

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