Ignacio students have tended to score lower on state mandated tests as they go into higher grades, fewer scoring proficient in math or English language arts. That didn't happen this year, Curriculum and Assessment Director Kathy Pokorney told the Ignacio School Board on Oct. 13.
The district was taken off a state accountability watch list earlier this month, and the elementary school was taken off "turnaround" status. The middle school got the second highest rating of "performance school."
Colorado Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Jhon Penn visited the district on Oct. 13, Pokorney and Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto told the board. Penn wants district representatives to provide information for use by other districts about Ignacio's turnaround efforts, Pokorney said.
"Our scores (for year-to-year academic growth) were up in every category," Fuschetto said of results from the state mandated PARCC tests taken in the spring. "The growth was unbelievable. We still have work to do academically."
Pokorney clarified, "It's our growth percentage in almost all our sub-groups, at or above the state growth. Math wasn't as high as growth in language arts, but it was significant growth in math."
PARCC tests students on math and English language arts proficiency in grades 3-8 plus high school. Districts are measured against state averages for year-to-year growth and the percentage of students scoring as proficient or above.
PARCC tracks year-to-year changes as kids go from one grade to the next. They are supposed to show one year of academic growth for each school year. A student who is significantly below grade level can achieve one year of academic growth but still be scoring below grade level. Students are supposed to catch up to grade level within three years, Pokorney said.
She showed year-to-year growth summaries to the board. "It's the first time in a long time that I've had so much excitement sharing this information. This is district-wide growth." Red dots marked sub-group results where Ignacio beat state averages. Green dots marked where Ignacio met state averages. Yellow dots showed where Ignacio was within 1 percent of state average.
"Usually we are lucky if we are even close to state growth," Pokorney said. "We should pat ourselves on the back."
One of the sub-groups is student race or ethnicity. "Often you see much higher growth with Anglo kids," she said. "Our groups are all in the same range, all higher than the state average. That's a good indication that we're meeting the needs of all our kids."
Results also include single year data of kids in each grade scoring proficient or advanced, partly proficient, or not meeting expectations.
On those, Pokorney said, "We're still lagging behind, but you can't catch up if you don't have the growth. One of the reasons we got off school improvement is we had no declines in proficiency." In the past, the percentage of students scoring proficient decreased as kids went into higher grades.
Pokorney told the Times, "There was no decline in proficiency. That's the show-stopper right there, especially for us. Even though in some areas where we didn't meet the state averages, we didn't experience any decline in proficiency."
She told the school board, "We set a goal of 5 percent growth in meet or exceed" expectations in both math and language arts. That's part of a "unified improvement plan" (UIP) that districts must submit to the Colorado Department of Education. Going from fourth to fifth grade (and some other grades), the district met the five-percent increase in kids meeting the proficiency standard, she said.
"In language arts there's always been a huge decline from third to fourth grade," she continued. "The number of students meeting grade-level standards is definitely increasing. ... We're setting the bar for next year's teachers. The expectation is to keep going up and up."
The district has moved from priority improvement and the CDE accountability clock to improvement, Pokorney said. "We're off the state accountability clock, but we're still accountable to our students."