Across Montezuma County, only about 1 in 5 students in the Class of 2022 are on track to be college- or career-ready in science. In comparison, about 1 in 3 fifth-graders across the state are on track.
The data for fifth-graders were reported last month by the Colorado Department of Education.
Colorado Measures of Academic Success tests measures whether students have a limited, moderate, strong or distinguished command of science concepts. To be deemed for college- or career-ready in science, students must demonstrate a strong or distinguished command of the subject matter.
Across the Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 district, only 16.2 percent of fifth-graders displayed a strong or distinguished command in the spring of 2015. At Dolores Re-4A Elementary School, 22.9 percent of fifth-graders achieved the same level. Mancos fifth-graders didn’t participate in the testing.
At Re-1 schools, almost a third of Lewis-Arriola Elementary fifth-graders scored strong or distinguished. Some 18 percent and 14 percent of their peers at Kemper Elementary and Mesa Elementary, respectively, also demonstrated a strong or distinguished command. Less than 3 percent of fifth-graders at Manaugh Elementary achieved the same level.
Compared with 2014, the number of fifth-graders exhibiting a strong or distinguished command of science in 2015 remained virtually unchanged, dipping by one-tenth of a percentage point, across Re-1 elementary schools, while the number dropped by 3.5 percentage points in Dolores.
Mancos fifth-graders participated in the state science test in 2014, when less than 1 in 4 students demonstrated a strong or distinguished command of science.
Perhaps even more disturbing, more than half, 53.4 percent, of fifth-graders at Re-1 elementary schools demonstrated a limited command of science last year. In Dolores, more than a third, 37.5 percent, of fifth-graders had a limited command of the subject.
The Cortez Journal emailed every elementary school principal across Montezuma County seeking comment. Two of the six principals didn’t respond.
Reassigned from the Cortez Middle School, new Kemper Elementary principal Jamie Haukeness said his staff was committed to working with every student to meet or exceed grade-level academic expectations in all subject areas.
“The emphasis at Kemper Elementary will be to use the results of this assessment, along with other academic data, to evaluate our learning objectives for the students and to determine which course of action will be used for best instructional practices,” said Haukeness.
In the upcoming school year, Haukeness said, teachers and specialists would partner to conduct weekly reviews of student performance and make data-driven instructional decisions to improve learning. He added that those instructional teams would also address the rigor, pacing and outcomes of classroom lessons.
“I would like parents to know that we will continue to focus on continuous educational improvement at Kemper Elementary School for our kids each day, and that attendance is crucial to the success of every student in the school,” said Haukeness.
To further ensure academic success, Haukeness encouraged parents to support the learning process by reading with their children at home and emphasizing the importance of doing their best when at school.
“Manaugh Elementary is never content with providing less than the best instruction and content for our students in preparing them to be work force or college ready,” said principal Donetta Rankin Dehart.
Dehart explained that her teachers were focused on improving achievement in all subject areas. In the upcoming year, she said, the school would embed goals and actions for its science curriculum within the first 90 days, and those plans would be available on the school website next month.
“These goals and actions will be monitored for implementation, and we know that our scores on this year’s CMAS assessments will be greatly improved,” Dehart said.
Mesa Elementary principal KD Umbarger said she hadn’t met with staff to determine how to address science scores.
“Last year, Mesa’s emphasis was on improving our reading achievement, using data to drive our instruction better and improving the culture and climate of our school,” said Umbarger.
Umbarger said that those goals distracted teachers from focusing on science education, but she vowed that would be corrected in the upcoming school year.
“At the end of last year, we decided social studies and science would be a topic of discussion,” she added.
Former Cortez Middle School science teacher and new Dolores Elementary School principal Gary Livick said the state assessments provided information to help teachers identify areas in which students struggled. He said the recent test scores, for example, revealed that fifth-graders in Dolores struggle with the concept of conservation of mass, which dates from Antoine Lavoisier’s 1789 discovery that mass is neither created nor destroyed in chemical reactions.
“Educators use this information to inform instructional practices and curriculum choices, how and what we teach,” said Livick. “These results are just one tool we use to help best educate our students.”
Livick repeatedly stated that Dolores students were making significant progress toward college and career readiness in all academic pursuits, including science.
“While our fifth-graders tested 11 percent below the state average … Dolores eighth-graders scored 8 percent above the state average,” he said.
Lewis-Arriola Elementary principal Dan Porter, who also serves as the Re-1 district’s human resource director, and Mancos Elementary principal Cathy Epps didn’t respond to our emails seeking comment.