Standardized test results show setbacks, but district optimistic

Englewood Schools’ officials cite changes in state standards

Posted 8/29/17

Standardized test-score results presented the Englewood school district with a mixed bag this month, with PARCC — math and English tests — and science tests showing more setbacks than growth since last year.

Numbers for Colorado as a whole …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

If you’re a print subscriber or made a voluntary contribution in Nov. 2016-2017, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access Includes access to all websites


Our print publications are advertiser supported. For those wishing to access our content online, we have implemented a small charge so we may continue to provide our valued readers and community with unique, high quality local content. Thank you for supporting your local newspaper.

Standardized test results show setbacks, but district optimistic

Englewood Schools’ officials cite changes in state standards

Posted

Standardized test-score results presented the Englewood school district with a mixed bag this month, with PARCC — math and English tests — and science tests showing more setbacks than growth since last year.

Numbers for Colorado as a whole showed near-stagnant results on science, and elementary and middle-school math, with English scores showing modest growth in most grade levels.

“Ultimately, we need to do better,” said Patty Hanrahan, deputy superintendent for Englewood Schools. “We are improving, but I think all of us would like to (see) the growth at a far more rapid rate.”

Under the Colorado Measures of Academic Success standards, students take tests on math, science, social studies and English language arts. The results focus on how many students met or exceed expectations based on state standards.

Overall, Englewood saw a slight drop in several test areas but growth in others, namely elementary school math. It saw large slips in middle-school math — for eighth-graders, the amount who met or exceeded expectations compared to last year dropped by 13.4 percentage points — and uncertainty in English, with third-, fourth-, sixth- and seventh-graders showing declines and fifth-, eighth- and ninth-graders posting growth.

The Colorado Department of Education did not release social studies results by district, citing that only one-third of elementary and middle schools took the tests.

State as a whole isn’t soaring

Colorado students in general showed growth in most grade levels in English, marginal growth in science and drops in elementary and middle school math, with stronger gains in high school math.

But in most math and science categories, that’s only bringing the state up to somewhere between 20 percent and 40 percent of students hitting or exceeding expectations — they fared better on English, but are still largely stuck in the 40s there.

Englewood sits below 20 percent in nearly all grade levels for math and science, and it doesn’t break 30 for English.

By contrast, under 2011’s CSAP testing, grades three through 10 in Colorado posted high 40s to low 60s as far as students who met or exceeded expectations in writing; high 60s to low 70s for reading; and 30s to low 70s in math. Grades five, eight and 10 scored in the high 40s on science.

How the playing field changed

Englewood’s district officials said the transition from CSAP to the new standards is a dramatic one that shifts how tests evaluate students’ thinking.

“I would say (CSAP and TCAP) was measuring skills more than thinking,” Hanrahan said. “And now the PARCC really measures problem-solving and thinking ability, whereas (the old tests) were measuring understanding of knowledge.”

Rather than multiple-choice, “black-and-white” tests, it’s more about inferences, analogies and other “higher-level thinking,” Hanrahan said.

“It was hard to do — it’s gonna take a bit of time,” Hanrahan said. “It doesn’t mean our kids can’t think. Getting them to show (what they know) on a standardized test can be a challenge.”

Because the new state standards are more broad, Hanrahan said, teachers have to figure out how to best break the standards into lessons.

A standard “might be `students understand text.’ Well what does that look like for students in first grade?” Hanrahan said. “How do I make it make sense to the students in my class ... and how do I teach while also juggling students who may (have) lagging skills?”

When Colorado switched to PARCC in 2015, the state “as a whole saw a big drop,” said Joanna Polzin, director of assessment and analytics for Englewood Schools.

Hanrahan says critical thinking and understanding of more black-and-white knowledge are both important.

“But clearly, we want our kids to be prepared for their jobs, and not many jobs are going to require a step-by-step process,” she said.

How Englewood is responding

To handle the more rigorous standards, Englewood’s district is revising its teaching strategies, re-training teachers and focusing on what Hanrahan calls “the whole child” with social and emotional learning.

The changes in standards are “one of the reasons why we added STEM in three out of four elementary schools this year,” Hanrahan said. All four elementary schools in the city now have STEM programming.

Instructional coaches — experts who teach teachers how to improve their lessons — were also a new strategy Englewood added in 2015-16. They meet with teachers and set plans for how to improve. New curricula for K-5 math has been a success, Hanrahan said, and Englewood is planning to align lessons with the new standards for grades 6-12 currently. New science curriculum will also be added this year.

“It entails ... having the right tools in our toolbox for how to scaffold for students who might have lapses in their own skills,” Hanrahan said. “For example, if a teacher (has) students that don’t know what they should have known in third grade, they take their instruction down to that level rather than keeping it up” and addressing those specific students. That’s an issue the district is working on now.

‘Understanding the whole child’

Hanrahan said it’s crucial to focus on the other aspects of students’ lives if schools want to see more success.

“They come to school not just for academics,” she said. “We need to support them in (social and emotional needs) ... because if they have a lot of stress in their lives, it’s even harder to learn.”

To that goal, Englewood is currently implementing what it calls “restorative practice,” wherein students start each day in a “connection circle” with their teacher. Students and teachers will have a chance to talk about their personal lives and what’s on their minds to relieve stress.

Parent groups, which the district started last year is “scaling up” this year, allows parents to meet with a coordinator from the district to learn how to better support their children in school, Hanrahan said. There are groups specifically for segments like non-English speakers and gifted education.  

Hanrahan said the 2017 test scores likely don’t reflect the changes the district has made in recent years.

“I would like to have a little more time to have growth,” Hanrahan said. “If you’re measuring them in third, fourth, fifth (grade), that small amount of time is not the amount of time where we could see growth in thinking. In knowledge, that works. But not (in thinking)… I think more time would be beneficial to all students in Colorado.”

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment