Moffat County students exceed state averages | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County students exceed state averages

CRAIG — For the first time since the start of Colorado Measures of Academic Success, students in the Moffat County School District have exceeded state averages for student performance.

Colorado's standardized testing measures student performance through status scores — how a child was rated on his or her assessment — and growth scores — a comparison of how a child performed from one year to the next relative to peers who historically scored similarly.

Highlights: status scores

Students are categorized into one of five levels: Did Not Meet Expectations, Partially Met Expectations, Approaching Expectations, Met Expectations, or Exceeded Expectations.

"The district performed better than last year," said Superintendent Dave Ulrich.

Across the district, there was a slight increase in math scores from the previous year, while in English language arts (literacy), 7  percent more students achieved one of the top two performance levels, meeting or exceeding expectations.

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For the first time since the students began taking the CMAS tests in the 2014-15 school year, Moffat County students exceeded the state average in grades three through 11, and in fourth-grade, 4 percent more students met or exceeded expectations than the state average.

"The credit goes to students, who put in the perseverance to take a challenging test," said Zack Allen, director of curriculum, educator effectiveness and shared school, when he reported the results to the school board in August.

He added that teachers should also be recognized for making a difficult transition in their teaching practices, sometimes against training they'd had years prior.

Highlights: growth scores

While status scores show performance relative to all of students’ schooling and the contribution of all their teachers, growth scores compare the current to the prior year and, therefore, measure how students performed after instruction within an academic year.

Growth scores

"I refer to this as the value-added of our teachers," Ulrich said.

In 2017-18, Moffat County students exceeded state averages for growth in several areas.

For the first time, as a district, students exceeded state average growth in English language arts in five of eight grade levels.

Across the district, students in English language arts exceeded the state average growth in 14 of 24 categories, such as growth for minorities, students receiving free and reduced lunch, students who speak English as a second language, gender, gifted and talented, migrants, performance level, and race/ethnicity.

"This affirms our belief that all kids can learn," Allen said.

In 2017, Sunset Elementary School was recognized by the Gov. John Hickenlooper for achieving some of the highest rates of student growth in the state.

At first glance, the growth score for this school might seem lower, however, when comparing growth scores from one year to the next, it is important to recall growth from the prior year.

"The tide was higher for the kids, and Principal (Jill) Hafey's teachers still grew them," Ulrich said. "They took a group of kids and grew them again to an extent that was above all the other schools."

In math, Sandrock chalked up the highest level of growth and was the only school to exceed the state average in that subject.

"We have room to grown in math," Ulrich said. The district has been focusing on literacy, based on evidence suggesting that students with a firm grasp of English language arts will also be more successful in math and science.

"What we are focusing on is working," Ulrich said, adding, "We need to grow in math. We didn't lose any ground, but we didn't gain any ground, either."

Investment reaps rewards

The focus on literacy has been supported by a 2017-18 grant worth a little less than $1 million over three years. It provided teachers and students in grades K through 5 with Wonders — a reading program.

The grant requires the district to meet the following three goals.

• Make above to well-above average progress moving students out of the well-below benchmark level.

• Make above to well-above average progress moving students into the benchmark level.

• Move at least 50 percent of students scoring "below" benchmark up at least one level.

Moffat County teachers helped students make each goal and, in so doing, moved 64 percent of the lowest performing students up at least one level.

"I'm really pleased," said School Board President JoAnn Baxter of results for English language arts students. As for math, she added, "We'll focus on that next."

Performance rating retained

Student status and growth scores contribute, as does post secondary workforce readiness, to the ratings given each school district.

For the second year in a row, Moffat County School District received an "Accredited" rating. The rating is the second-highest; the only category higher is Accredited with Distinction.

Each school is also given a performance rating. Last year, East Elementary slipped into a category requiring the development and implementation of a plan to address deficiencies.

Had East Elementary School remained open, it would have received an "improvement" rating.

Moffat County High School had an "improvement" rating in 2017-18 and, this year, increased to a "performance" rating.

Craig Middle School's performance slipped a little, and the other schools maintained their ratings.

The rating, part of a performance framework, is preliminary for now and will require the approval of the local school board.

“We are seeing a positive trend, but we don’t want to be complacent. We’d like to put the state averages in our review mirror,” Allen said.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.