The Churchill County School District Board of Trustees met last week to review the 2016-2017 assessment results.
Lisa Bliss, district data and assessment coordinator, presented the data from the End of Course, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and NWEA MAP (Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress) tests.
Schools transitioned to End of Course exams from high-school proficiency tests a few years ago since they’re “more streamlined to courses students take,” Bliss said.
Tests are given in the areas of English Language Arts (ELA), math and science. And tests taken are presently “medium-stakes tests,” meaning a student’s score is a certain percentage of the class grade.
Dr. Sandra Sheldon, superintendent of schools, Bliss and Education Services Director Kimi Melendy recently had a call with the state discussing the latest considerations such as computerized or paper testing, school or state scoring, overall grading and consequences.
“Hopefully we’ll work through that whole process,” Sheldon said. “I know the (state) superintendent is adamant all students are treated fairly.”
Sheldon said some graduates requirements have changed three times “so it has been a roller coaster.”
Bliss reported the SBAC electronic administration “went very well.” She said the Chromebooks functioned well and the middle school completed testing in one week.
Third-grade math test-takers had a significant increase in their test results compared to last school year while other grades’ performances decreased. Bliss said with the new college and career readiness focus, the testing is “extremely more rigorous in both learning and teaching.” Grade three also had a “nice increase” in ELA, Bliss said, while there were some decreases in other grades but overall better performances than in math.
Bliss said the initiative will continue to follow through to the higher grades since the third-graders had the new math curriculum since first grade.
“I really believe we’re seeing a turnaround,” Sheldon said of how the state-adopted curriculum is going and explained how they work with other districts as well. “That this is a trend and not an anomaly.”
Though retired, Patty Fleming of Educational Services is returning part-time to aid grades in math proficiency.
“We must work diligently to support students in the new standard and do what we need to build and close gaps,” Bliss said.
The MAP exams done in kindergarten through grade eight tests ELA and math at points throughout the year and is aligned to the Nevada Academic Content Standards as well as adaptive to individual student needs, Bliss said. She added it does help with predicting state test performance.
Bliss explained how achieving the 59th percentile is considered proficient nationally, a number formerly marked at 50. She said with MAP the district does have a clearer trend since it has been used for so long, and it’s showing a steady increase over the years with ELA gains a little stronger and hovering at competency.
“That’s the initiative,” Sheldon said, “shift the old bell curve over … the 59 then becomes the 50, the average; that is the goal.”
Bliss said students are making typical growth but now education is looking to make atypical growth. She also noted the significant increase in students making typical growth in math and reading.
Melendy discussed Edgenuity, a collection of computer programs to help give young students what they need to catch up or excel further. She said the math resource for now would replace others, and teachers who could join in on a learning session were excited and pleased with the system. Melendy said the new tool for both students and teachers gave her goosebumps.
“I love data but the thing to focus on here is we teach individuals not groups,” trustee Clay Hendrix noted, touching on how teacher interaction, student manners and other characteristics create an inspired pupil and good citizen. “Our job as teachers is trying to connect with individuals.”
Bliss and the board members agreed as well as recognized real conversations about performance need to happen.
“I’m right there with you, Clay; the connection teacher to kid is where it’s at,” Bliss said.
The board went onto approve high-school credit for algebra and geometry taken in middle school, something that used to be done but fell by the wayside when students would take the course but not qualify at the end for credit.
Churchill County High School Principal Kevin Lords said graduation requirements have changed and four not three math credits are required in high school, so the extra credit would aid students’ schedules and allow for higher math course options.
Lords also gave an update on the school’s Career and Technical Education programs including courses being offered, new teachers and sections, standards, staff recruiting struggles as well as the continued effort for specialty class safety.
The principal noted Richard Evans, instructor of the popular automotive mechanics, came into his office recently extremely excited; Evans described having the chance to try out using virtual reality to work on a transmission. Evans said he’s going after the competitive grant.
“It’s an exciting time for technology,” Lords added.
Julie Wolf, Churchill County Farm Bureau president, gave a public comment sharing about agriculture and technology, agriculture course suggestions and staffing ideas.
The next meeting will be Aug. 23 at 6 p.m. in the Old High School auditorium (“The Pit”).