The Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 School District reported gains Thursday on its student performance testing, but it fell short of the state average.
The Colorado Department of Education on Thursday released results of the 2017 state tests, known as the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, which tests whether third- through eighth-graders are meeting expectations.
Most Colorado students fell well short of expectations on the annual Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers math and English tests, which are meant to measure whether students are on track to be prepared for life after high school. Statewide, only 42.3 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in English, up 1.9 percentage points from last year, and in math 32.8 percent of students were on target, according to the PARCC math and English language scores.
The Montezuma-Cortez District Re-1 results show 23 percent of elementary students met or exceeded expectations in language arts, a gain of 2.3 percentage points compared with 2016 results. Sixteen percent met or exceeded expectations in math, a loss of .3 percentage point.
“We really appreciate that our students participated and did their best on the tests,” Montezuma-Cortez Superintendent Lori Haukeness said in a news release. “These tests provide valuable information to our principals and teachers on where we can improve and how we can better support each student and class.”
According to Haukeness, Montezuma-Cortez had a participation rate of 93 percent.
“We are particularly proud of the staff and students at Mesa Elementary,” Haukeness said, “which had 33 percent of their students meeting or exceeding grade level standards in language arts.” At Mesa, 36 percent of third-graders met or exceeded expectations, a gain of 14.2 percentage points compared with 2016 scores. In fourth grade, 20 percent met or exceeded expectations, a loss of 10 percentage points. In fifth grade, 44 percent met or exceeded expectations, a gain of 24 percentage points.
Statewide, 40 percent of third-graders met or exceeded expectations, a gain of 2.7 percentage points compared with 2016. Forty-four percent of fourth-graders and 46 percent of fifth-graders met or exceeded expectations.
Haukeness’ district also showed improvements at Cortez Middle School, with 19 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in language arts and 11 percent meeting or exceeding standards in math. At the high school, 14 percent met or exceeded expectations in language arts, and 8 percent met or exceeded expectations in math.
Haukeness also said the high school SAT test revealed similar results, with half of students demonstrating college-ready performance in language arts and a quarter of students in math.
In the upcoming year, the Re-1 district plans to focus on math, the weakest area of study revealed in the assessment.
“In math, the district did not see improvements in the number of or percentage of students who are meeting grade-level standards in math in elementary or middle school, Haukeness said. “Math will be a priority area of focus for 2017-18.”
Dolores and Mancos reportThe Dolores Re-4A results show 34 percent of third-graders, 26.5 percent of fourth-graders and 16 percent of fifth-graders met or exceeded expectations in language arts. In math, 34 percent of third-graders, 25 percent of fourth-graders and 8.3 percent of fifth-graders met or exceeded expectations.
Among seventh-graders, 10.8 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in language arts with a participation rate of 78.7 percent.
Fewer than 16 students tested in grades six, eight and nine in language arts. Grades six, seven, eight and Algebra 1 provided no PARCC data.
Many in Colorado do not see the test as an accurate representation of students’ performance because of high “opt-out” rates.
“We use internal tests to determine how our kids are doing, not the PARCC tests,” said Brian Hanson, superintendent of Mancos School District RE-6. “Ninety-six of our kids and parents opted out.”
Montezuma-Cortez still on the clockMontezuma-Cortez is among 10 on-the-clock districts in Colorado that must make continued improvement or face state action. The schools made significant gains in 2017, raising English language scores from a median growth score of 38.0 in 2016 to 44.0 in 2017. Math scores also increased, from 39.0 to 40.0. A median growth score of 50 is thought to be equivalent to a year’s worth of learning. The state growth score is at the 50 percentile, so any growth score above 50 is considered positive.
“We are highly focused, and we have a very dedicated teaching staff,” Haukeness said. “They truly are working very diligently.”
The district received the “priority improvement” rating in October for the sixth year in a row from CDE. Priority improvement is the second-lowest in the state department’s five-level rating system.
According to state Senate Bill 163, passed in 2009, districts and schools can spend five consecutive years at the two lowest tiers — “priority improvement” and “turnaround” — before they face consequences and intervention from the state board. The countdown is referred to as the “accountability clock.”
“Obviously the scores both in achievement and growth are not as a district where we want our students to be,” Haukeness said. “As a district, our goal is for them to be at grade level.”
Districts that are out of time on the accountability clock must submit a turnaround proposal to the state. Proposals may include several options, such as district consolidation, school closures and outside consulting.
“The focus of the district and the Board of Education is to get off the accreditation clock,” Haukeness said. “But really improving the district so that it does become a district of excellence not only for students but also for our community.”
Re-1 district officials have been working with the University of Virginia on a turnaround program for the past three years and plan to work with the district for the next two years. District and CDE officials, as well as state board members, agreed it’s in the best interest for the district to continue working with UVA.
The birds’-eye viewThe Colorado Department of Education sees the results as valuable to future plans to improve the education system.
“Where we are high in participation, and where we are expected to be ... it is a pretty close match,” Colorado Education Commissioner Kathy Anthes said Thursday during a news conference. “We do have pretty high confidence in the results that we are seeing.”
With overall percentage increases, Anthes expressed her gratitude to teachers and staff for their part in the data trends shown in the results.
“Not all of the trend lines are going up,” Anthes said. “But a lot of them are, and I really know that these scores do not come easy, so I know that our teachers are working day and night to make sure that our students are seeing these growth increases.”
To parents of students who may not be happy with their child’s test results, Anthes advised parents to remember that this is only one test and to reach out to schools, teachers and the Colorado Department of Education for advice on improvement.
“It is important to know a couple of things: This is one test, one measure. It is an important measure because it allows us to look across the state, and it is the only totally consistent measure we have had from district to district, so I think it is a good indicator of their child’s performance,” Anthes said. “I know districts and schools are working very hard on this across the state already so they would already have their own local answer.”