Moffat students “moving in the right direction” on state assessments
CRAIG — The results of last year’s student achievement test scores are in, and the news is good for Moffat County School District student performance.
“We haven’t achieved all of our goals, but we are moving in the right direction,” said Superintendent of Schools Dave Ulrich.
Student academic achievement and academic growth were two metrics in which the district received a new performance rating of “Accredited” from the Colorado Department of Education.
“For the first time since 2009, Moffat County received a rating of Accredited. This represents a gain of one level based on previous years’ data,” Ulrich said.
Accredited is the second-highest of the five available school performance ratings.
To understand how the district achieved the distinction, it is necessary to consider student achievement results and measures of academic growth.
Individual achievement strengthened
Approximately 550,000 students from third through 11th grade across Colorado were assessed last spring using the Colorado Measures of Academic Success.
MCSD students showed strong improvement in both English language arts and math.
In English language arts, students in third through fifth grades, eighth grade and 10th grade performed better this year than students tested in the same grades in 2015-16.
The students at Sunset Elementary School achieved some of the highest scores across the district.
“We pulled together our technology resources as a school and made a second computer lab, which allowed our students to do their writing in the computer lab every day for 60 minutes,” said Sunset Elementary School Principal Jill Hafey.
In math students of all grade levels, except those in 10th grade, performed at the same level, or better, than they did in 2015-16.
“We saw our biggest growth in math last year,” said Ridgeview Elementary School Principal John Haddan. “We will also be looking at the successes of other schools and inquiring on how to implement some of the practices that led to their success, as well.”
While performance within the district improved, students lag behind state averages.
“There are still 52 percent of kids that are in the bottom two levels, as measured by student achievement in Colorado,” Ulrich said.
Educators in Moffat County are working with new tools to help students achieve better results.
“It became apparent part way through the year that we needed to make some significant changes to some of our school systems, as well as to the allocation of our school’s resources, in order to meet the significant needs of our students that were identified last year,” said East Elementary School Principal Sarah Hepworth.
The teams at East Elementary are already using student achievement data to mobilize support to the teaching staff and students who need it most.
“Principal Hepworth has aggressively moved in setting targets based on these results,” Ulrich said.
During the summer, a new reading resource called Wonders was purchased with funds from a multi-year Early Literacy Grant, awarded to the district by the Colorado Department of Education.
“This year, the major change at the elementary level is a new reading and writing resource called Wonders,” said Sandrock Elementary School Principal Kamisha Siminoe. “Much of our professional development time for the year will be dedicated to helping support teachers with this new resource.”
MCSD students and educators have also adopted a new attitudes to learning.
“Our staff believes that all of our students can achieve. We are proud of the great growth they have made and continue to make. We will maintain a culture of universal achievement at Sandrock Elementary,” Siminoe said.
Growth higher than expected
Students’ CMAS scores in English language arts and math, analyzed during consecutive years, showed most students at MCSD achieved levels greater than expected for their peers in Colorado.
“This is one way we measure how teachers add value,” Ulrich said. “Last year, as a district, in 22 of the categories, we grew our students at a greater rate than the year before.”
A student’s growth percentile — from one to 99 — indicates how that student’s performance changed over time, relative to students with a similar score history on the state assessments. Higher median growth percentiles indicate higher growth rates for the typical students in those groups.
The state average is 50 for all categories except high school math, which has an average of 49.
Students at Sandrock and Sunset Elementary Schools in 2017 grew at a greater rate than the state median in both English language arts and math.
“We raised our rigor, streamlined our processes and our students rose to meet the bar,” Hafey said.
Students at Moffat County High School and East Elementary School showed less growth in English language arts and/or math in 2016-17 than in the 2015-16 school year.
“East will be learning from the growth and achievement results that Sunset Elementary experienced this year and trying to adapt those same systems changes to our context and learners,” Hepworth said.
Student performance in math at Craig Middle School grew at the same rate as the state median.
“CMS teachers and staff have embraced the challenge to improve student achievement,” said CMS Principal David Grabowski. He went on to describe one of the steps taken to help students by creating “intervention and enrichment time for students to catch up and fill holes they have in core content areas.”
As educators continue to help students improve their test scores, they are also focused on teaching a way of life rather than teaching to test.
“My ultimate hope for our students is that they gain a love of learning, they find their passion in life and they strive to be better than what they were yesterday,” Hafey said.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.
After years of leadership turnover at Moffat County High School, students and staff will find some continuity in their newly selected principal.