By Traci Chapman
The novel coronavirus has perhaps been particularly challenging for students and their families – and the educators dedicated to preparing them for their future. New data released by Mustang Public School District shows how virtual and distance learning, among other impacts of COVID-19, have affected student proficiency.
That data was a major subjected of the district’s Jan. 11 Board of Education meeting, during which Stacy Edwards and Ryan McKinney presented the findings of analyses conducted by Mustang’s eight member curriculum team.
That team, headed by the two assistant superintendents – Edwards for elementary and McKinney for secondary school – also features a diverse group, they said. They include Marva Oard, who heads federal programs and student assessments, while Robbyn Glinsman and Maudean Wakefield serve as math and science coordinators, respectively.
Angie Choate is Mustang’s longtime STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – facilitator, while Misty Eidson and Lisa Geniesse are the district’s elementary and secondary ELA/social studies coordinators, respectively.
Student assessment uses and resources
The district utilizes several resources to monitor student progress, Edwards said. Those include standard weekly, unit and benchmark tests; informal assessments and progress monitoring; “common formative” assessments; and STAR screening.
STAR is comprised of short computer-adaptive tests designed to provide reading and math performance data. STAR assessments – which provide testing in about one-third the time others take – are among the most used across the country, according to national educational data; at Mustang, all students enrolled in kindergarten through 8th grade are assessed in reading and math three times each school year through STAR, Edwards said.
Those assessments also help in another way, she said – helping forecast state test performance, something that has continually challenged educators throughout the state, as benchmarks and other components of those tests change, sometimes seemingly at random. STAR also allows teachers and administrators alike to analyze data from several angles – in relation to individual students, teachers and/or classes, by grade or school level or districtwide.
“That also allows us to drill down by standard to identify the strengths and weaknesses we’re looking at,” she said.
Consolidated state performance
Data shows mixed results in both reading and math in terms of students at the “basic or below” standard and those tested proficient or higher, Mustang data showed.
One statistic that seemed consistent across the board grades analyzed – 3rd through 8th – was that proficiency in both math and reading dropped significantly between the spring 2019-2020 semester and winter 2020-2021, which just wrapped up.
For example, 3rd grade readers flipped in the comparison – with 45% basic or below and 55% proficient and above in spring 2019-2020; during the last semester, those tallies were 55% and 45%, respectively.
Some trends were not positive in the first place, but deepened, sometimes significantly, through the studied time periods. An example was 8th grade reading, which began at 61% basic or below during the initial spring semester; it then dropped to 65% during fall 2020-2021 months and worsened, falling to 70% in the winter assessment.
Particularly in math performance, there were improvements, however, shown in the winter analysis – among them, 6th grade math performance was 73% during the fall, but shifted up to 68% during the winter, as did 8th grade math – moving from 88% to 84%. Neither of those measured up to spring 2019-2020 numbers, but there was improvement, something seen in math across the board, data showed.
Student growth percentile
This data measures the percent of students at or above the 35th in student growth in both reading and math, Edwards and McKinney said. The administrators provided documentation of fall to winter growth in 2019 – before the novel coronavirus pandemic – and after, from fall to winter 2020.
Across the board, those percentiles – which illustrates typical or high growth – fell significantly. Most striking among that data were a few – in reading, 5th graders dropped by more than 28 percentage points, from 91.4% to 63.1%; 8th grade readers almost fell as far, from 88.1% to 60.8%.
According to STAR math data, 5th graders in that subject fell by more than 31%, from 89.5% in 2019-2020 to 58.1% – the largest of measured drops.
Consolidated progress data gives a glimpse into student achievement by providing average scaled scores from one testing period to another – in this case, spring 2020 to fall 2020; fall 2020 to winter 2020; and spring 2020 to winter 2020, the assistant superintendents said.
As in other data presented by Edwards and McKinney, it appeared reading progress fluctuated greatly. Between spring 2019-2020 and this term’s fall semester, two of three testing areas decreased; however, the winter term just ended appeared to show testing gains, not only in comparison with fall, but also when compared to spring semester last year.
In math, that appeared to be duplicated when comparing spring to fall and fall to winter; however, spring to winter saw decreases in two areas and no change in a third.
Data will continue to be analyzed moving forward as educators continue to look for resources to help both students and teachers succeed, the assistant superintendents said. Also expected were adjustments to curriculum, instruction and the pacing of core content.