School report issued by state

Bob Bonnar

Bob Bonnar

NLJ Editor


Newcastle students performed well in most categories of last year’s WY-TOPP state assessments according to a report presented to the Weston County School District #1 Board of Trustees last Wednesday, and Curriculum Coordinator Sonja Tysdal told the board that reports indicate educators enjoyed an even greater level of success when it came to demonstrating growth in students who had not performed well on the test a year prior.

“We’ve met expectations, for both the Wyoming accountability act and the federal accountability,” Tysdal explained as she handed board members copies of the color-coded report, which was filled with green boxes that indicate the schools were “meeting targets” in the 2017-18 school year. There were also a significant number of blue boxes on the chart, which signify the district exceeded targets in those areas.

“In many areas we were above the state average all the way across, some fairly significantly,” Tysdal reported.

The 2017-2018 School Performance Reports issued by the Wyoming Department of Education indicated that Newcastle Elementary School and Newcastle Middle School met targets and expectations in all three areas — growth, equity and achievement — based on results of last year’s WY-TOPP test, and the elementary school even performed ‘above average’ on the achievement measure under the federal law, which reflects the percentage of students who were “proficient or above on the state test in English language arts and mathematics.”

Newcastle High School met expectations for both the federal and state laws in six of the seven categories high schools are rated under, with the only blemish being a score just below the target on the “Growth” indicator for the state law, although the school met that expectation under the federal law. 

The high school did exceed the target on a trio of categories pertaining to the amount of credits earned by freshmen, the four-year on-time graduation rate and the post-secondary readiness indicator. Tysdal explained that those three categories, however, are all based on data from the year prior to 2017-18.

“Those are lag indicators,” she said, indicating that timing of the state test, when it is scored and when school ratings are compiled dictates that those measures trail the others by a year or more.

Contained within the reports presented to the board were more specific sets of data that provided additional insight into how schools and students are performing, and Tysdal asked board members to look at the numbers and discuss questions or concerns with herself or the building principals.

“There’s huge celebrations too. There are many, many great things these numbers show,” Tysdal said after acknowledging that district educators had identified areas where they hope to create improvement moving forward.

One area where the district performed particularly well was in the “Equity” category, which determines if students at every level are given equal opportunities to succeed. The equity score for schools is calculated by heavily weighting (80 percent) the growth of the 25 percent of students who performed the lowest on the state exam the previous year, and factoring it with the growth for the rest of the students tested (20 percent).

The elementary school exceeded the state average in this category for both English language arts and math, and the middle school exceeded the state average across the board as well, with the exception of eighth grade math. In that grade level, however, the students who didn’t score in the bottom 25 percent the previous year exceeded the overall state growth average in eighth grade math by nearly five full percentage points.

The equity scores in the high school were a mixed bag, with math students who scored in the bottom 25 percent the previous year easily eclipsing the state average in math, while that subgroup of students showed growth below the state average in English language arts. As was the case in the middle school math, the growth rate for the students who did not score in the bottom quartile the prior year in English language arts was significantly higher than the state average.

“Most of the math and language arts across the board were higher than the state average, and in some cases significantly higher than the state average,” Tysdal said, giving credit to the Walk To Learn, Power Hour and other intervention programs put in place at local schools. “Our ‘low’ kids are really growing.”

While that is cause for celebration, Tysdal said
educators also saw the numbers as a reminder of the need to challenge and grow children across the educational spectrum.

“Are we growing our upper level students as well?” Tysdal offered. “We put a lot of emphasis on the kids who aren’t where we want them to be. How do we make sure we’re getting enrichments (for kids who are already there). Those are things we are definitely considering, trying to plan and be very intentional,” she told the board.

Among the highlights in the results, Newcastle Elementary School exceeded the state average in ‘Achievement,’ which measures the percentage of students proficient or above on the state test last year, in English language arts, math and science for both fourth and fifth grade, and were above average in English language arts in third grade. Newcastle Middle School exceeded the state average in ‘Achievement’ in English language arts at all three of its grade levels, and eclipsed the state mark in math and science in the eighth grade as well. At Newcastle High School, the state average was beaten across the board in both ninth and 10th grade, as local students outperformed the rest of Wyoming in English language arts, math and science.

“We’re on the right path, and we’re happy with what we’re doing,” Tysdal said.


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