The Sopris Sun

Local school test results show promising growth

CRES, CMS, RFHS show “exceptional growth”

By Debbie Bruell

Sopris Sun Correspondent

The spring of 2016 marked the second year that students in grades three through nine in the Roaring Fork School District took the state mandated PARCC test (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career). Several other states use this same test, but in Colorado it is referred to as the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) PARCC.

The test results, released this month, are reported in two ways: first, as “performance data,” which refers to the students’ test scores at a single point in time (in this case, spring 2016) and is presented as the percentage of students who “meet or exceed grade level expectations;” and second, as “growth summary data,” which refers to the gains students made on the assessment from 2015 to 2016, compared to their academic peers.

The performance data showed mixed results for Roaring Fork schools compared to the state as a whole, with some grade levels performing above the state average and some grade levels performing below the state average, for both math and English-language arts. 

The state has not yet released performance data disaggregated by subgroups, which means it is not yet possible to compare, for example, the performance of low-income students in Roaring Fork schools to the performance of low-income students across the state, or to compare the performance across the board of native English speakers in Roaring Fork schools to that of native English speakers across the state. 

In contrast to the mixed results of the performance data, the growth summary data revealed consistently positive results for Roaring Fork schools compared to the state as a whole. 

As Superintendent Rob Stein noted at a recent press conference, the performance data indicate that the district has work to do to reach higher levels of overall performance. However, Stein said, “The only way to improve this (performance) is by growth. And that’s happening, at a higher level (in our district) than in most places in the state.”

Calculations

To calculate the growth measure of the CMAS PARCC, each student’s performance score was compared to other “like students” or “academic peers” (i.e., those who received a similar performance score the previous year). If, in one year, a student’s score grew more than the average student in that group of academic peers, then that student would receive a “median growth percentile” (MGP) higher than 50 (i.e., higher than the 50th percentile). If a student’s score grew less in one year than the average student in that group of academic peers, then that student would receive an MGP lower than 50.

Lindsay Redd is the Roaring Fork School District’s data analyst and assessment coordinator, a position that was created with the reorganization of the district after Diana Sirko’s retirement. Redd indicated she was pleased to announce that within the district, the MGP of every sub-group was significantly higher than the MGP of that same sub-group for the state as a whole. In other words, the average student in each subgroup — including students learning English, native English speakers, students in the Gifted and Talented program and students not in the Gifted and Talented program — grew at a faster rate than the average student across the state in that same subgroup.

As Stein explained, the concept behind the MGP scores is that, no matter what level each student is at — whether that student performs below the grade level expectation or above the grade level expectation — every student should experience significant growth from year to year. The results of the growth summary data indicate that that growth is happening in the Roaring Fork School District.

Interestingly

Interestingly, the results of the CMAS PARCC test also indicate that, on average, all subgroups do not show similar rates of growth. Some discrepancies in the growth rates between subgroups include the following: the average student in the Gifted & Talented program grew at a higher rate than the average student not in the Gifted & Talented program, in the state and in our district; the average student who did not qualify for free and reduced lunch prices grew at a higher rate than the average student who did qualify for free and reduced lunch prices, across the state and in the district; the average female student grew at a higher rate than the average male student in both math and English, in the state and in the district.

Referring to this last result, Stein noted that he’s seen a shift in the educational community from a concern about the lagging academic growth of girls to the lagging academic growth of boys. This year’s PARCC growth summary data confirm this trend. It is one of the many interesting findings of this assessment, Stein said, which the district will be investigating further.

A press release from the school district noted that there were six schools in the district that saw exceptional growth at the school level: Crystal River Elementary School, Carbondale Middle School, Roaring Fork High School, Basalt Middle School, Basalt High School, and Glenwood Springs High School.

Stein also pointed to Crystal River Elementary School as a particularly exciting example of progress being made within the district. A of couple years ago, Stein noted, CRES was identified as a “turnaround school” in need of improvement, based on its declining proficiency scores and relatively low growth scores. Staff surveys also indicated low staff morale and a lack of faith in leadership. According to Stein, the state’s Turnaround Network worked in collaboration with the school staff (“not in a heavy-handed way,” Stein emphasized) to the point where staff surveys now indicate that most staff believe CRES is a great place to work, and the growth scores at CRES this year were higher than the state average and the highest of all elementary schools in the district.

Published in The Sopris Sun on September 22, 2016.