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|Paynesville Press - September 14, 2005|
District makes Adequate Yearly Progress
A year after being listed as failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress, as defined for No Child Left Behind, the Paynesville Area School District reversed that outcome based on its test results for 2004-05.|
Last year, the district was listed as not making Adequate Yearly Progress - along with 150 school districts across the state - for not having high enough scores in reading and math among its special education students. This year, not only did test results improve dramatically among special education students in Paynesville but in reading and math as well.
Last year, Paynesville's special education students had an average score of 46.0 in reading. This year, that improved to 67.27, exceeding the target of 64.02. Last year, Paynesville's special education students had an average score of 46.94 in math. This year, that improved to 72.12, exceeding the target of 65.20.
The special education department increased their focus on standards this year, which had a big impact on test scores, said Deb Gillman, who serves both as the elementary principal for the district and as its curriculum coordinator.
Paynesville was not alone in its improvement. Last year, 150 school districts were cited for failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress, many due to special education scores. This year, only 77 school districts statewide were cited for failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress, a drop of nearly 50 percent.
Similarly, six of the ten school districts surrounding Paynesville (Albany, Litchfield, Melrose, Paynesville, Rocori, and Sauk Centre) were cited last year for failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress, all for special education scores except for Melrose. All these schools made Adequate Yearly Progress this year, and the only neighboring school district that did not make Adequate Yearly Progress this year was ACGC, which missed its target for math proficiency.
Not only are school districts judge for Adequate Yearly Progress, but individual schools are, too. Once again this year, Paynesville Area Elementary School, Paynesville Area Middle School, and Paynesville Area High School made Adequate Yearly Progress.
In fact, both Paynesville Area Elementary School and Paynesville Area High School earned five stars, the top ranking for a school.
PAHS earned five stars last year in reading and four in math. This year, they earned five stars in both reading and math, based on the grade 10 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) in reading and the grade 11 MCA in math. Of the surrounding school districts, PAHS was the only high school to earn four stars in both reading and math.
On the grade 10 MCA, PAHS students had an average scale score of 1672.5, topping the state average of 1601.4 in reading and leading the ten neighboring school districts. (See chart on page 3.) Rocori was second among neighboring schools in reading with an average score of 1660.8.
On the grade 11 MCA, PAHS students had an average scale score of 1606.3, an improvement of nearly 30 points in math from 2003-04. PAHS students were second among neighboring school districts in math scores, trailing only Eden Valley-Watkins, which averaged 1608.3. The state average was 1,540 in math.
PAHS earned five stars in reading because it met AYP, had fewer than 10 percent scoring in Levels 1 and 2, had a reading performance in the top 25 percent of comparable schools, and had a reading performance in the top 25 percent among schools of comparable size.
PAHS earned five stars in math because it met AYP, had a reading performance in the top 25 percent of comparable schools, and had a reading performance in the top 25 percent among schools of comparable size. PAHS earned five stars in reading and four stars in math in 2003-04.
Paynesville Area Elementary School received five stars in reading this year, improving from three stars last year. PAES earned five stars because it met AYP, had 30 percent of its students scoring in Level 5, and had a reading performance in the top 25 percent of comparable schools.
Five-star schools are viewed as the best, so school officials were pleased to receive that rating in three areas. "We're just tickled to death about that," said Gillman.
"I'm really pleased," Gilman added. "I think we did really well." PAES earned three stars in math, and PAMS earned three stars in both reading and math this year.
District officials also saw improvement in math scores in 2004-05 on the MCAs and believe that their new math curriculum in the elementary school has helped. The new textbook series focuses on story problems, critical thinking, and true understanding of math, not mere rote learning. "It really was different from what we were doing," said Gillman.
On the grade 3 math MCAs, Paynesville's average scale score improved from 1525.8 in 2003-04 to 1592.6 in 2004-05. That is a new high for Paynesville. On the grade 5 math MCAs, Paynesville's average scale score improved from 1505.4 in 2003-04 to 1572.2 in 2004-05, another 70-point improvement and a new high.
School officials are hopeful that this indicates a trend, and that the district's scores in the elementary will continue to improve. (The average scale score on both the grade 3 and grade 5 reading tests also improved in 2004-05.) But, scores can improve or decline year to year based on the strength of a class.
Over time, though, these test results can be used to identify trends in the curriculum. For instance, the impetus to purchase a new math textbook series in the elementary school were stagnating test scores. A study group identified a need for a newer curriculum and for more math instruction time in the elementary grades.
With these changes now in place, district officials are hopeful that they will continue to see test score improvements as teachers and students become more and more familiar with the new math series.
This year, the district has added more technical support for its math curriculum, noted Gillman, a CD rom for each grade for extra practice or enrichment exercises. Also, Gillman expects the middle school math department to purchase a new textbook series, too, since math, media, and music are on the purchasing cycle for next year.
Through the West Central Education District, the district also is purchasing a testing/data management system, so it will be able to test students three times per year and evaluate their individual progress and evaluate both the students individually and the curriculum collectively.
District officials are also optimistic that some new initiatives at the elementary school - all-day, everyday kindergarten, looping, and multi-age classrooms - will help future test scores. This year, the first class of all-day, everyday kindergarten students is in third grade and will be tested.
In the competitive environment of schools, the district needs to continue to improve, said superintendent Todd Burlingame. "The bar is going to continually raise, so we are going to keep improving to keep up with the bar," he said.
This year, state testing will change dramatically. Now, all students in grades 3-8 must take a new MCA. There will no longer be a basic skills test in grade 8; instead the MCA in grade 10 will also serve as the basic skills test in reading. A new MCA in grade 9 will be the basic skills test in writing (instead of an MCA in grade 10). And the MCA in grade 11 will also serve as the basic skills test in math.
Districts also will have more flexibility in the testing. They can choose when to give the MCAs, during the last two weeks of April or the first week of May. District officials are checking with teachers before choosing testing dates for the district this year.
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