Assessment data shows student growth

Nathan Oster

One year ago, as schools were closing due to the emerging threat of COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) granted Wyoming a waiver from certain federal assessment and accountability requirements.

What that meant for students is that they would not have to take the statewide assessment, WY-TOPP.  For districts, it meant no formal accountability determinations would be made for the 2019-20 year.

While it essentially amounted to a skip year in the assessment routine, school districts have been able to glean some insights about student performance since in-person learning resumed in the fall, courtesy of ACT and WY-TOPP data.

GHS Principal Ty Flock, GMS Principal Cadance Wipplinger and GES Principal Casey Bowe shared what they’ve learned during the March 9 meeting of the Big Horn County School District No. 3 board of trustees.

Flock said every member of this year’s senior class chose to take the ACT after not having the opportunity to do so last spring as juniors. Their composite score was a 19.8, which was “right in the thick” of where Greybull students typically score on the test.

“I really think that if they had taken it in the spring, they would have scored at least a half point, maybe a full point, higher than they did,” he said, suggesting students were “still shaking off the rust from the quarantine” when they tested in the fall.

A closer look at the numbers shows that Greybull students scored a 21.3 in reading, a 20.5 in math, a 19.9 in science and a 16.4 in reading. Flock said he was very pleased with the reading and math scores, each of which represented improvements compared to the 2020 seniors who scored a 19.58 in reading  and a 19.15 in math.

“I think those sub scores are indicative of the work the school and students have done in those areas,” he said.

But at the same time, some gains are needed in the other two — and particularly English.

“English is indicative of writing mechanics (spelling, grammer, capitalization, sentence structure, and paragraph structure) and those mechanics have recently become more of a target area in high school as well as middle school,” he said. “Giving students more writing, practice, expectations, and feedback is crucial to developing better writers.”

Shifting to the WY-TOPP, Flock said, “We saw good growth,” noting declines in in both grades in the number of students testing blow basic.  

In English Language Arts, GHS freshmen averaged a 650 and the sophomores a 637 in the fall.  By winter, the average scores were up to 676 and 656, respectively.  Sixty-seven percent of sophomores and 52 percent of freshmen graded as proficient or advanced.

In Math, GHS freshmen averaged a 596 in the fall and a 646 in the winter, with 52 percent reaching proficient or advanced.  Among sophomores, the average was 574 in the fall, 596 in the witner, with 41 percent proficient or advanced.

Similar trends emerged at the middle school.  

In ELA, eighth graders went from a 672 in the fall to a 686 in the winter, the seventh graders from a 649 to a 650 and the sixth graders from a 638 to a 646. In Math, the eighth grade average moved from 559 to 571, the seventh grade average from 535 to 536 and the sixth grade average from 475 to 493.

The majority of students tested proficient or advanced in ELA, but that wasn’t the case in math.  Although fall-to-winter improvements were realized, the majority failed to reach proficiency, with the largest deficiencies occurring at the sixth (78 percent below) and seventh grade (73 percent below).

At GES, Greybull third, fourth and fifth graders outperformed the state at each grade level in math.  The third and fourth graders also topped the state in ELA; the fifth graders came up a little short but were “within striking distance,” 617 to the state’s 621, according to Bowe.

Bowe also produced fall-to-winter data that showed “all of the student grade level cohorts are achieving above average growth effect sizes, which is what we would like to see.” He added, “Growth trends are showing student growth accelerating in math and decelerating in ELA across grades three through five at GES.”

In other March 9 business:

• In his report, Flock said GHS is planning a “traditional” graduation ceremony this year, with the initial plan being to give each student 10 tickets for family members wishing to attend.

The annual English Language Learners (ELL) celebration that is normally held in the spring may be merged into another annual event, that being the Hispanic Heritage Celebration taking place in downtown Greybull.

Flock said he’s also exploring the possibility of adding a personal finance class, which would be required of students in their senior years.  A lot of the subject matter is already being taught in GHS classroom, but not ever student is in those classes, he said.

• The board accepted the resignation of paraprofessional Alice Shelley.

• Bryce Wright was hired as the head middle school track coach.  Earlier in the evening, Wright personally thanked the board, administration and staff for the opportunity to do his student teaching this year at Greybull Elementary School.

• The board accepted two donations, each of which benefited Mr. Ralph Wensky’s industrial arts classes at Greybull High School.  Big Horn Co-op made one of the donations; the value of the nails, sanding items, etc., was set at $3,272.  Greybull Building Center made the other, consisting of fixture and hardware items and valued at $600.  

• Jose Atilano provided the Student Government report.  He said the GHS student body will have opportunities to ski at Antelope Butte, with half of those interested going Monday, March 22 and the other half going Friday, March 26.

Prom has been set for April 17, with “Cloud 9” chosen as the them.

• After coming out of executive session, the board voted to renew the contract of certified staff members recommended for rehiring by Supt. Mark Rose.

The board also accepted the donation of two personal leave days, from a certified employee to a classified employee.