In the 2018 test season, Englewood's school district saw strong improvement in scores for elementary math, English and science compared to last year, along with a step forward on the SAT — …
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In the 2018 test season, Englewood's school district saw strong improvement in scores for elementary math, English and science compared to last year, along with a step forward on the SAT — outpacing gains in some surrounding districts and the state's average gains.
“While we are happy overall with our growth from last year to this year, we know there is more work to do,” said Julie McMorris, spokeswoman for Englewood Schools.
In the latest season after a long line of transition years in Colorado's testing system — parents and students have braved the alphabet soup of CSAP, TCAP, PARCC and CMAS — the district said students showed notable growth and that the tests have the right amount of rigor.
Here is a look at how Englewood stacked up on the Colorado Measures of Academic Standards, or CMAS tests, and how the district is pushing forward.
The kids are all right
Englewood's scores in third through fifth grade for English boasted double-digit percentage-point increases, according to the numbers released by the state Department of Education. The numbers show how many students met or exceeded expectations in those grades compared with last year. For example, 41 percent of third-graders hit that mark, a high point among the data.
Elementary students had a strong showing in math, too, with this year's fourth-graders doing 12 percentage points better than last year's cohort. Eighth-grade math saw a jump of 18 percentage points. Fifth-grade science saw an increase of 14 percentage points.
On the PSAT, 10th-graders held steady at an average of 873, 2 points better than last year. Eleventh-graders on the SAT had a 29-point increase over last year with an average of 942.
Room for improvement
Englewood's scores generally showed higher increases on science, math and English across all students tested, on average, than students in the Littleton, Denver and Sheridan school districts. But students in Denver and especially Littleton — and on average statewide — showed higher overall scores.
That pattern was most pronounced in fifth- to seventh-grade math, sixth- to eighth-grade English and high-school science, where Englewood fell behind the state by wide double-digit margins. For example, 12 percent of Englewood's seventh-graders met or exceeded standards in math, compared to the state average of 29 percent. On the SAT, the state averaged 1014, and Littleton students posted a score of 1110.
Still, the district celebrated its gains.
“We are very proud of Englewood's growth and achievement scores,” said Joanna Polzin, chief academic officer for Englewood Schools. She added, “The gains Englewood Schools experienced can be attributed to the hard work of students and teachers as well as the strong instructional leadership of our schools.”
Initiatives pay off
Last school year, the district added STEM curriculum in Bishop, Clayton and Charles Hay World School elementaries, meaning all four of its elementary schools now get STEM programming.
Science and math scores have risen in many grades “since implementing STEM in grades K through 12,” Polzin said. With a continued focus on STEM, scores will continue to rise, she added.
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, a factor that has been critical in ensuring students are taught well, Polzin said.
The district is entering its fourth year of using new parts of curriculum for K-5 math, aligned with the Common Core state standards.
“We are seeing the benefits of students understanding and applying multiple strategies to solve mathematical problems,” Polzin said.
A newer strategy is what's called the Academic Advancement Initiative, through which the district has developed a comprehensive curriculum in English and math, Polzin said.
“Teachers are able to better plan for the needs of all students,” Polzin said.
The initiative started late last school year and over the summer with trainings for district and building-level administrators, but this school year is when many of the practices were put into place, Polzin said. The initiative is in partnership with the University of Virginia Partnership for Leaders Education and the Colorado Department of Education.
The 'whole child'
The district said last year that it's crucial to focus on other aspects of students' lives if schools want to see more success.
“In Englewood Schools, we know that learning doesn't begin and end with academics, and that's why we educate the whole child,” Polzin said this month. “We know it's important to explicitly teach students to be socially and emotionally healthy through decision-making and respectfully interacting with others.”
That includes connecting with peers in a “connection circle” with their teacher, where they can talk about their personal lives and what's on their minds to relieve stress, the district said last year.
“A strong classroom community ensures a positive learning environment for all students,” Polzin said.
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