Mixed progress report for TRCS benchmark testing

THREE RIVERS — Students in Three Rivers Community Schools are seeing mixed results and improvement in benchmark testing midway through the school year, according to data presented at Monday’s TRCS Board of Education meeting.

The presentation made Tuesday by Norton Elementary Principal Jen Graber was a state requirement for mid-year assessments. The data came from winter NWEA tests and DIBELS tests done recently by the district.

For NWEA testing, the focus was on the percentage of students averaging an “average” score or above in reading, language development and math from first grade to 11th grade compared to fall baseline scores and see if there’s student improvement. First graders are not tested on language development, while high school seniors are not tested at all due to a focus on Advanced Placement classes, Career and Technical Education and work study. Pre-K and kindergarten students use the DIBELS test for literacy foundational skills.

For Pre-K and kindergarten, 54 percent of kids were at benchmark level at winter, compared to 38 percent in fall.

For first grade, there was a three percentage point decrease in students scoring “average” or above in reading from fall to winter (54 to 51 percent), while the opposite was true for math, which went from 48 percent to 51 percent. In second grade, reading scores took a nosedive, with 16 percentage points fewer children scoring average or above (53 percent to 37 percent); for language, the opposite was true, with an increase of 15 percentage points from fall (8 percent to 23 percent).

Graber called the second grade scores “bumpy,” but made a couple observations about their learning experience thus far.

“One of the things we’ve discovered with second grade is many of these kids have not either been to school or they were at school and had a fractured year or fractured learning through kindergarten or first grade,” Graber said. “Some of them have not been in school, so then comes the whole, ‘how do I do school’ routine-type stuff.”

In third grade, which Graber called “sunnier,” reading and math had six and seven-point increases respectively (45 to 51 percent for reading, 45 to 52 for math), while language had a small three-point decrease (47 to 44 percent). Fourth grade students had a three-point increase in average or above reading scores (44 to 47 percent), but language and math scores had a small four and two-point point slide respectively (47 to 43 for language, 47 to 45 for math).

While getting above 50 percent in some categories doesn’t seem like a big deal to some, Graber said it was a “huge deal” given the circumstances of learning during the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of things working against us as far as absences of staff members and trying to make that up and keep things consistent,” Graber said. “January was a super-fun adventure for administrators and we learned some new skills.”

Fifth grade scores held steady, with a three-point increase in average-or-above reading scores (45 to 48 percent), with language scores holding steady at 50 percent, and math scores going from 47 to 46 percent.

In the middle school level, the only positive improvement noted was in sixth grade reading, where 61 percent of students scored “average” or above, a two-point increase from fall. Math scores from sixth to eighth grade held steady at 55 percent, while everything else had tumbling scores, from a seven-point decrease in seventh grade language (66 to 59 percent), all the way to a 21-point slide in seventh grade reading (59 to 38 percent). Eight grade reading had the other double-digit slide, going from 59 percent to 47 percent between fall and winter.

At the high school level, data was a lot rosier. While there were minimal increases in ninth grade reading (59 to 60 percent) and math (55 to 56 percent) and a decline in ninth grade language (66 to 61 percent), all but one category had near double-digit gains. The biggest gains were in 11th grade math, which jumped 17 points from 63 to 80 percent, 11th grade reading (69 to 78 percent), and 10th grade language (59 to 68 percent). Eleventh-grade language, despite taking a nine-point tumble from its fall data of 72 percent, still had 63 percent of students score average or above.

All things considered, the data presented shows there are plenty of students maintaining and making gains in academic areas. In fourth grade in particular, 78 percent of students are doing so in reading as well as 70 percent in language, while only 50 percent are doing so in math. Approximately 70 percent of 10th graders, 70 percent of third graders, 71 percent of first graders and 71 percent of 11th graders are maintaining or making gains in math, the other 70-and-above-percent data points in the final chart presented. Ninth graders are slightly consistent, with 61 percent making or maintaining gains in reading, 63 percent n language, and 68 percent in math.

Conversely, only 38 percent of fifth graders are maintaining and making gains in language, while 38 percent of seventh graders are doing so in reading. Other data points range anywhere from 45 to 69 percent.

Overall, Graber said there is still a lot of work to do.

“There are some challenges we have. Math in second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh are low. Looking at language arts and reading and then language usage – language usage looks pretty good, and our kids are closer to that benchmark and projected growth they should have,” Graber said.

In other business…

  • Interim Superintendent Nikki Nash said the athletic department held interviews recently for the district’s speed and strength coordinator, with Brock Yost, who is also co-owner of The Pit Fitness Ranch, selected and hired. Yost will start in June.
  • As part of the board’s consent agenda, they approved the appointment of Shannon SaintAmour to be the new health teacher at Three Rivers Middle School.
  • A small presentation was made during the meeting for a $6,000 donation from the Three Rivers Area Community Foundation toward the district’s K9 Comfort Crew program.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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