Exeter aims to improve test scores

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Program gives specific ideas that help students in next point of learning

Exeter students take a state test once a year, and with a new program the school has implemented, the students get better assistance in areas they struggle in.

Tim Jordan, Exeter principal, said the school chose to use the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) test which is not a state test but rather a national test that is used all over.

“This is a test that we use to try to see where our students are at,” Jordan said. “The whole purpose of this program is to asses students on where they are at so we can get them the assistance they need.”

According to Jordan, it is a high quality test because the test changes based on the students’ answers.

“If the students answer correctly it continues to increase the difficulty and higher standards,” Jordan said. “If the students begin missing the questions, the difficulty goes down until it pinpoints a closer accuracy of what the students know.”

Jordan said the students take this test in the fall, winter and in the spring.

“This is not the state level MAP test, as the students take that test in the spring,” Jordan said. “We are finding that this assessment scores are close to the scores that the students get on the MAP testing.”

According to Jordan, this program gives specific ideas and programs that the school can use to help the students to prepare for the MAP test and the next point of learning.

“We have collected data from 2014 to current on the state assessment MAP tests,” Jordan said. “The state has changed the tests over the years, but this shows the trends of scores over that time.”

Jordan said over the years, the standard has changed. It has gone from a paper and pencil test to online, and now they have switched the Missouri learning standards.

“The trend we are seeing is that from preschool up to 5th grade over the last few years, we are starting to see a growth in the performance in third, fourth and fifth grade to state average or above,” Jordan said. “Our challenge is that we aren’t seeing that carry over to the sixth, seventh and eighth grade students yet.”

Ernest Raney, Exeter superintendent, said as far as professional development tools, the Southwest Center for Educational Excellence located in Webb City has been helping to establish a direction that the school needs to go.

“We feel like we need their expertise and support as we go though this process,” Raney said. “We realize we don’t have all the answers, but together we can find strong solutions.”

According to Raney, one of the approaches that is necessary for Exeter is to look at the map scores and picking three to five schools that are similar in size and socioeconomic status to Exeter.

“They might have scores that are above state average,” Raney said. “We need to examine what they are doing that is different than the norm.

“Any ideas that we can use in the area of professional development and program implication we will look into and see what elements contribute to high test scores.”

Raney said the district sends a team of teachers to their schools to talk and learn from other teachers.

“I think teachers talking with teachers is a very powerful approach,” Raney said. “They understand the language and are in the trenches every day.

“If we can establish a relationship with these school, they will take on a life of their own, and the impact will be for a career.”

Jordan said the comparison between districts does not become public until middle to late January, but Exeter has informally talked to other administrators in the area to talk through some ideas.

“The goal is to talk to other districts similar to ours to find out what they are doing that we are not,” Jordan said.

According to Jordan, the students are taking ownership of their learning.

“Using the NWEA scores, the students can see where they started, set goals and they are creating growth,” Jordan said. “Seeing those scores come in is very exciting to see how they are growing.

“The data team came in and said that with the second grade testing group, every one of the second graders improved on their tests and met their goals.”

Jordan said the school as a team is shifting the culture to be positive, team oriented and focus on every student every day.

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