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Board informed of NWEA scores

By Staff, 03/2/21 9:56 AM

PRESCOTT – Updates on how students are doing were presented to the Prescott School Board at its March meeting Monday night.

Overall, the board was told under NWEA testing, students are improving in math and literature. However, the board was also informed these figures don’t necessarily represent grade-level abilities as they do on state tests.

Kim Grimes, principal at Prescott Elementary School, alonh with Shannon Henderson, presented the report for PES. The scores were compared between those who took the test live and those who took it virtually, with those taking the test live doing slightly better than those who took it virtually. Overall, Grimes said, the students showed growth in these subjects. She told the board this test is a grade level breakdown by class, teacher and individual students.

Henderson added the information was broken down by live and virtual testing as well. The problem, she told the panel, is not all students attending school virtually took the test, which skewed the scores, especially in the fourth grade, where few took the test online, while all attending school took it. She pointed out the virtual program is doing a good job as the scores are close, except in a few areas.

The kindergarten ELA score, she said, showed 90 percent improvement, but this isn’t where the district wants to be.

Part of the problem with virtual testing, presenters said, was not everyone has access to live internet, nor is the service completely reliable. Students who got booted off because of internet problems during the test had no way of getting back to it. Those who didn’t take the test online will have the issues discussed at parent-teacher conferences later.

Superintendent Robert Poole said these scores show the district is on the right track and doing the right things for the students, but they also show students do better in classroom settings than by learning virtually. He said the PLC process is also working and the district needs to keep moving that direction and ramp up the efforts to get the scores where they want. He said students are gearing up  for the ACT Aspire test in April and the end of year tests. Grades 3-10 will take the ACT Aspire, while students in K-2 will be taking the end of year tests. He reminded the board, this is the first year the district has used the NWEA test.

Henderson said students took a similar test before, but it couldn’t be broken down into specific skills whereas this test does.

The NWEA test is given twice a year to measure how far students have progressed, but not all students have take it both times, Grimes said. The board was informed there’s also the problem of students being over-tested and not taking them seriously. The NWEA test, they were told, should take 45 minutes to an hour to complete, but some students rush through it in less than 10 minutes just to get it over with.

Poole said the district is working on incentives to help keep students interested in doing their best and take the tests more seriously.

In discussing upper grade levels, Angie Bryant said there was growth in math and literature in grades 7-10. She said the point of taking the same test twice at different times of the year demonstrates student growth, shows where they gave effort and what skills they need to work on. However, there was the problem of not all students taking the test virtually, which skewed the results.

Henderson said scheduling is also a problem with the tests as students also have to take the required state courses and there’s also athletics and other extracurricular activities. “Teachers are working hard and we want them to work smarter.”

A lot of education, Poole told the board, will be virtual (primarily because of a national teacher shortage), and there’s a lot of resources available.

He told the board the district will be offering free ACT prep test for all students in grades 9-12. If students bought these tests, he continued, it would cost $300-$400. These prep tests can be done at home and school, with videos available, along with problems and strategies. “This will be good for the students,” he said. “I hope they take advantage of it.” He said those who take the ACT prep see an average improvement of two points overall.

In other business, the board approved a resolution for school choice for the 2021-22 school year. This must be done annually, and, Poole said, the deadline for school choice is May 1 this year.

The district’s finances, he said are in good shape, with $195,000 collected in taxes this year, compared to $163,000 at this time last year.

He provided enrollment figures from the Sept. 24 school board meeting until the March meeting. In September, there were 937 students enrolled overall, with this climbing to 944 in October, dropping to 938 in November, rising to 941 in December and dropping again to 939 in January. The figures as of March 1, were  945, with 352 at PES, 305 in Prescott Junior High School and 288 in Prescott High School.

The regional basketball tournament is under way this week with games scheduled Wednesday through Friday at 10 a.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The time disparity is to allow time for the gym to be cleaned and sterilized between games. Poole said having the regional tourney in town is good for Prescott as people come to town and spend money. He added the district’s quiz bowl team finished second in the regional competition and is moving on to state.