This is the question that hovered over a school year defined by COVID-19: to what extent would the academic success of students be impacted by the pandemic? With the introduction of virtual learning, social distancing, and other pandemic-related mandates, nothing was predictable about this past academic year.
Today, schools in Eagle County are starting to retrieve data from last year, indicating that while there have been fluctuations based on subject, grade level and demographics, in the together, the district was able to maintain the growth and learning in each group.
âTo see some of this academic growth under this strain under which students and staff have operated over the past year is very encouraging. We weren’t sure we could be in person, we could do four days a week for most of our kids, two days a week for our high school kids, âsaid Superintendent Philip Qualman. âIt makes me happy to be able to provide what we have done; It is really encouraging.
Melisa Rewold-Thuon, assistant superintendent of Eagle County Schools Support Services, presented year-end data to the District Education Council on Wednesday. which identifies areas of growth, learning gaps and other trends.
The district relies on a number of metrics to track student learning and ensure students are on track. In addition to the standardized tests required by the state, such as the Colorado Measures of Academic Success and the SAT, the district administers tests at the start, middle and end of the school year. These tests include the NEWA and STAR testing approaches and provide controlled and rapid results.
The state has yet to send the results of this year’s CMAS tests, although the results are expected in the next two weeks. However, because the state reduced the CMAS tests administered this year, the results are expected to be somewhat “spotty,” according to Qualman.
The district, however, received the SAT scores of the students. According to Rewold-Thuon, Hispanic students had “significant increases in SAT” – a 15 point increase in reading and writing and a seven point increase in math. White students, however, saw a slight decrease in their overall SAT scores – a six-point decrease in reading and writing as well as math.
Overall, the district saw an average increase in SAT scores from 977 to 981, which is slightly lower than the state average of 1,024. Which, Rewold-Thuon said, was “due to l ‘increased scores in our Hispanic population’.
The other data, which was based on the NEWA and STAR tests conducted by the schools, also indicated growth, gaps and declines depending on the subject. This year, teachers âfocused on the core to fill any gaps,â said Rewold-Thuon.
District-wide, according to Rewold-Thuon, the two areas that remain of concern are phonemic awareness, phonetics and fluency, as well as general awareness of mathematical concepts for young students.
With phonemic awareness, phonetics and fluency, the district will adopt a new elementary curriculum over the coming year that will train teachers on how to intervene in this area. With this, Rewold-Thuon noted that she expects “we will see an increase in these areas”.
In recent years, math has been identified as a problem for the district. However, this year the district implemented Istation, an e-learning program that provided systematic intervention for consistent skill-based checks and tracking of progress throughout the year. With this, the district has seen great growth in mathematics in elementary and middle school.
However, while the neighborhood is on the cusp of meeting its reading goals, it is not quite there.
âWe focused on the math, we just need to focus on everything to make sure we keep the growth going,â Rewold-Thuon said.
As part of its district equality goals – which include the implementation of more equitable scoring practices – the district continues to “examine the demographic distribution of results,” she said.
Across all subjects, the district still sees slight gaps between its white and Hispanic students. However, according to Rewold-Thuon, those gaps are starting to narrow slightly, and the goal going forward will be to close that gap completely.
Implications for the future
Based on these results, the district is now looking to the future. District uses this data to inform its unified improvement plan, Rewold-Thuon says, which each school district is required to submit to the Colorado Department of Education. This plan is intended to help guide districts in the years to come and appropriately allocate resources to achieve their goals.
The district has yet to really analyze the results and identify what is behind some of the trends it is seeing. As school administrators return to schools, staff will seek to identify trends, correlations and identify and standardize best practices, according to Rewold-Thuon.
âIt’s really part of the universal improvement process with all staff and that’s also why we have this coordination between the school improvement plans and our overall improvement plan with the district so that we can see the correlation. and make those comparisons between schools, âshe mentioned. âWe try to find the best practices so that we can replicate them in all our buildings. “
As the next school year approaches, Qualman noted that the district is preparing for a number of challenges and situations, even as things return to normal.
âNo one has ever been through what we’ve been through in the past 18 months and we don’t really know what to expect when the kids come back to school in August,â Qualman said. “We know that we are going to have challenges that we cannot anticipate and that will largely relate to mental health.”
Another change the district is implementing – as a number of parents at council meetings have expressed interest in the district’s program – is to add any district curriculum frameworks, or documents that guide what is taught in class, at its website.
âWe want to be as transparent as possible as an organization and reflect our community,â Qualman said. âEveryone needs to know what is being taught in classrooms and what resources teachers are using. “
As another suggestion, school board member Lucila Tvarkunas noted that the district could also post resources and skills that students should have on leaving and entering grade levels.
Journalist Ali Longwell can be reached at [email protected]