Flagstaff Unified School District principals are already mapping out their plans to improve test scores in the new school year. The principal from each school in the district presented a brief synopsis of the “data story” about their school to the FUSD Governing Board Tuesday evening.
The stories include a combination of AzMERIT test scores, student grades and other metrics collected by teachers, staff and principals at each school, Robert Hagstrom, the director of research and assessment for FUSD explained. The district plans to publish the stories and solutions to each school’s website so parents can look at them in the near future.
Every grade level in FUSD this year on both AzMERIT tests had pass rates below 50 percent and below statewide pass rates.
Teachers, staff and principals at each school used the collected data to identify areas where students have improved and where more improvement is needed. The idea is not to focus just on improving AzMERIT scores but to improve the learning environment overall, he said. That environment includes test scores, finding methods that can reach students that are struggling, supporting students who are doing well and creating a culture in a school that is conducive to learning.
For example, Coconino High School Principal Stacie Zanzucchi said she was still concerned about the school’s AzMERIT scores on Algebra I and about a drop in the AzMERIT test scores for English in ninth and 11th grade.
In 2015, the school had only 18 percent passing Algebra I. That improved to 25 percent passing in 2016 with the creation of an Algebra I block schedule for students who were struggling. In 2017, the school’s AzMERIT Algebra I score stayed the same with 25 percent passing.
English scores at Coconino High dropped from 30 percent of ninth graders passing in 2016 to 24 percent in 2017 and 11th grade scores dropped by two percentage points from 20 percent passing in 2016 to 18 percent passing in 2017.
Zanzucchi said she’s looking at continuing the Algebra I block schedule for struggling students this year and possibly creating something similar for students struggling in English. Students in the block schedule Algebra I class received two periods of instruction, she said. The first period focused on where they should be based on their grade level and the second period was an intervention class where students focused on areas that they needed improvement on.
Zanzucchi said the school is also looking at the math scores of eighth graders to determine who might need to go into the block scheduling as incoming freshmen.
Sinagua Middle School Principal Tari Popham said her school plans to continue its work on back-filling students’ math and English skills through its weekly intervention program for struggling students. Students who are struggling with math or any other subject are identified by having teachers check grades every four and a half weeks.
If a student’s grades show that they are struggling with a particular part of a course, such as fractions in math, they are required to go to an intervention lab for 30 minutes four days a week. Teachers also pull grades at the end of every semester and students who are failing a class are sent to the lab to get additional help. The students are pulled from their elective classes for intervention, so they don’t miss their core classes.
Hagstrom said that at the district level all of the elementary schools will be using Quest Assessments. Students’ knowledge of state standards for their grade level will be tested at the beginning of the year. The students will have another test every nine weeks to determine how well they’re doing on the standards and more work needs to be done. At the end of the year, a final test will be given to determine how well they’ve learned the material, he said. In between, teachers will use the one-day assessments to determine which subjects or what particular part of a subject, such as verbs, a student is struggling with and assign additional help.
Ryan Chee, the principal of Leupp Public School, said his school is focusing on improving early childhood education for preschoolers and kindergarteners in order to catch students early. Many Leupp students struggle with the English portion of AzMERIT because they don’t get enough practice reading at home, he said. Parents are often working and grandparents who don’t speak or read English are often a student’s afterschool caretaker. Parents also often speak a mishmash of English and Navajo at home, so students don’t get a good grounding in either language before they start school.
Chee said the school is pushing for Head Start to reopen in the town and is looking at adding a third preschool class to help students.
Other principals in the district talked about making sure students had eaten enough food before, during and after the test and had enough rest breaks during the test to perform properly. They also discussed teacher training that would allow teachers to use technology, such as IPads and other devices, in the same way that students do so they could engage with them more easily. Principals also discussed plans to give teachers more time and support in upgrading their own classrooms skills.