Eagle County School District sees student proficiency rise from start of year | VailDaily.com

Eagle County School District sees student proficiency rise from start of year

Students’ academic proficiency still lower than desired, but moving in the right direction

The Eagle County School District continues to make gains in students' academic achievement following declines brought on by the pandemic.
Eagle County School District/Courtesy Photo

The Eagle County School District has seen student achievement grow in math, reading and literacy over the course of the school year as it continues to battle lower-than-desired academic proficiency following the pandemic. 

“The past couple of years the overall achievement level has been lower as we are trying to recoup the COVID effects on learning,” said Melisa Rewold Thuon, the district’s assistant superintendent of student support services.

The district administers local assessments to its students at the beginning, middle and end of the year to measure local student growth across several subjects.

In the past, the district used multiple assessment systems for different grades to track student progress throughout the year. This year, however, in an effort to provide more consistency in data, it is using Renaissance STAR Assessments as its main universal screeners for grades K-12.

“This is the first year that we have district-wide data across all grade levels,” Rewold Thuon said. “It is showing better progression towards proficiency than in the past.”

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The district this year has administered STAR assessments for K-9 students, with select students in grades 10-12. These are administered in both English and Spanish, with students given their home language first and dual language students taking both Spanish and English.

These assessments are used as part of the district’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports, or MTSS, which is a prevention-based framework defined by the Colorado Department of Education. Leveraging this data, the district uses it to define the needs of its students in terms of interventions and other supports.

At the Wednesday, March 8 meeting, the district’s Board of Education received a presentation on the mid-year checkpoint. Overall, while the data is encouraging, it still shows some areas where further interventions and attention are required.

“Overall proficiency level is still lower than we would like it to be, but we are showing growth toward moving the needle,” Rewold-Thuon said.

Positive trends

Some of the most positive trends from the start of the 2022-23 school year to the mid-year point were the district-wide growth in math proficiency. (Proficiency in the following data is defined by a district-set benchmark.)

In English, 46.2% of students tested as proficient, an 8.7% increase from the beginning of the year. And the number of students requiring urgent interventions decreased from 37.6% to 29.9%.

For the Spanish math assessments, there was a similar trend. Overall district-wide proficiency grew 8.3% from the start of the year to 44% proficiency. And the number of students requiring urgent interventions dropped 8.7% to 35.2%.

One of the other positive trends Rewold-Thuon pointed to was the growth in early literacy for K-3 students so far this year. Proficiency grew 8% in both English and Spanish, with urgent intervention needs dropping 11% in Spanish and 7% in English.

Additionally, the reading proficiency for fourth grade and up increased by 4.3% in English and 94% in Spanish as the number of students requiring urgent intervention dropped by 3% in English and 11% in Spanish.

Rewold Thuon said that this growth throughout the year is typical but often followed by a slump in the summer.

“We do annually see improvement during the course of the school year, then each summer we experience the summer slide,” she said. 

To address this in the upcoming 2023 summer vacation, Rewold Thuon said the district is “working to reduce the summer dip with extensive summer programming with YouthPower365 and credit recovery programs.”

Already, she added, YouthPower365 has started to reach out to families based on this mid-year STAR data to get them enrolled in summer programming.

“We are currently planning for this summer and next year for additional training for improving core literacy instruction and for training and coaching to support more effective implementation of interventions,” Rewold Thuon said.

More resources, interventions

This growth in proficiency — and decline in the number of students requiring urgent intervention — is a “point of celebration,” Rewold Thuon said, adding that it comes as a result of “a lot of resources this school year put into intervention.”

These resources include Read 180 and Math 180, which are both subject-related intervention programs in the district’s middle and high schools. According to the board presentation, 25 teachers are using the Read 180 program in one or more classes across the district with 235 students currently enrolled. Twelve teachers are using Math 180 in one or more classes, with 400 active licenses for the year.

Plus, the presentation adds that the district continues “to get requests to add more classes/teachers” for both programs.

However, as the proficiency is still lower than the district’s targets, Rewold Thuon said this is because “some of the newly implemented interventions are not being fully utilized and therefore we are not getting the expected results in some locations.”

Over the past few years, the district has leveraged funding from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund — also known as ESSER funds — to implement interventionists and add support for increasing student engagement. However, as these federal dollars were temporary for the pandemic, most are set to expire in the coming months.

Rewold Thuon said that the district is currently using the majority of the final ESSER funds to add extra interventionists and supports to schools.

“Students in the 25 percentile or lower have been identified for K-8 summer programming — the district wrote an Extended Learning Opportunities grant through ESSER and was awarded $1,950,000 this fall to be used over a three-year span to provide summer learning opportunities to help increase our student academic achievement levels,” Rewold Thuon said.

The positive outcome in math this year is a testament to these interventions, Rewold Thuon said.

“Our current ESSER funds have supported math interventions, which we did not have staffing available to do prior to the ESSER funding,” she added. “Unfortunately, many of these positions will be cut next year with the fading out of the COVID Recovery Funds.”

Social-emotional data

One other part of the district’s MTSS is a Behavioral and Emotional Screening System that it introduced last spring. According to a presentation made to the school board last year, this is “a bilingual emotional screener used to systematically and quickly determine behavioral and emotional strengths and weaknesses in children and adolescents from preschool through high school.”

The idea is that the screener data can help the district better target support for both individual students and student groups based on need.

The district intends to administer this screener twice a year, with the first administration in spring 2022 and another in October 2022. Its spring surveys this year will take place in late March/early April, Rewold Thuon said.

At a high level, Rewold Thuon said that there was improvement between the spring and fall administrations. However, it’s too early to make any full determinations.

“The spring data will give us a better picture since it will be a common point in the school year as the initial screening,” she said.

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