District examines test scoring

By: 
Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor

 

WY-TOPP scores released in late August show varied results across Weston County School District No. 1, according to Sonya Tysdal, curriculum coordinator. Rankings for each grade, third through 10th, vary from the top quartile to near the bottom of the 48 districts in the state.  

“Keep in mind, this is one measurement of student learning,” Tysdal told the board of trustees on Sept. 8 when presenting an overview of the WY-TOPP 2021 scores. 

She noted that while there were several “celebrations” in the district scores, there were also areas where students didn’t perform the way the district would have hoped. 

In celebrations in math, Tysdal highlighted the seventh grade. This class was ranked sixth in the state, with 64.71% of the students rated as proficient or advanced. In eighth grade testing, there was an increase of 21.8% in the number of students who tested at an advanced or proficient level, ranking that grade 14th in the state with 61.4% of students scoring advanced or proficient. 

In reading, grades six, eight and 10 all performed well enough to be ranked in the top quartile of the state. The highest ranking in the district goes to the eighth grade with 75.44% of students placing in the proficient or advanced categories, ranking them fourth in the state. 

Tenth grade is ranked seventh in the state, with 66.67% of the students achieving an advanced or proficient score. Sixth grade had the same percentage of students scoring high enough, ranking that grade at 12th in the state. The sixth grade also achieved a 13.47% increase in reading scores from the previous year. 

 The test scores indicate several areas where the district needs to aim for improvement. Tysdal  said it is hard to pinpoint a definitive answer as to why scores were low.

“There are always a variety of reasons, you can’t narrow it down. I think some of the significant decreases … last year coming off of COVID-19,” Tysdal said. 

The grades experiencing the biggest drops were ninth and tenth grade in math and fifth grade in reading. 

In math, only 24.19% of the ninth grade achieved a proficient or advanced score, ranking that grade 44th in the state. This is a 25.81% decrease from previous scores. 

Tenth grade was ranked 45th in math, with 31.48% of students scoring high enough to be proficient or advanced, down 38.32% from the previous year. 

In reading, the fifth grade was ranked 38th in the state, with 45.59% of the students testing at proficient or advanced levels, down 22.91% from the previous year. 

“There was brand new curriculum in math and reading,” Tysdal said, noting that this could have had an impact on student scores. “Last year
was our first year of implementing new math curriculum. They (the state) couldn’t have timed it worse. We also didn’t have a true fourth quarter the year before. There are a few gaps, but nothing we can’t overcome.” 

She added that there are also individual situations with certain students that are even more challenging to address. 

Newcastle Elementary School Principal Brandy Holmes said that several of the students had not taken a test “of this magnitude.” 

“We usually teach test-taking skills,” Holmes said, which could have played a role in scores. 

“We are throwing a giant test at those kids that we didn’t prepare them for because we were focusing on something else,” she said.

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