SHERIDAN — Last week, Wyoming schools were rated on how well they served students last school year, and most areas schools earned passing grades.
The ratings were given by the Wyoming Department of Education, which released its annual state growth and achievement report for the 2016-17 school year Aug. 31.
The department rates schools using an array of measures. It calculates achievement, participation rate, growth and equity for schools with grades three through eight. For high schools, graduation rate and additional readiness are also considered. Additional readiness accounts for a variety of elements, including GPA, ACT scores, ninth grade credits earned and Hathaway Scholarship eligibility.
“They’re a little bit more comprehensive,” WDE communications director Kari Eakins said. “It’s an in-depth look at what schools are accomplishing with their students.”
Sheridan County School District 1 had four schools meet expectations, two partially meet expectations, and one under review.
Tongue River Middle School met expectations for the second year in a row, after not meeting expectations in 2014-15 and partially meeting them in 2013-14. SCSD1 superintendent Marty Kobza credited principal Pete Kilbride and the school staff for the improvement.
“They really started targeting the needs of individual students,” Kobza said.
Most SCSD1 schools stayed in the same category as the 2015-16 school year, with two schools dropping down one category. Tongue River High School went from exceeding expectations last year to meeting expectations this year, while Big Horn Elementary is now partially meeting expectations, after meeting them last year. Slack Elementary is currently under small-school review.
BHE and Tongue River Elementary were the two district schools that didn’t fully meet expectations. They are both below their targets in growth and equity. Growth measures how students perform on math and reading assessments, while equity looks at students who struggled in math and reading the previous year, then compares their current year results to students across the state.
For a school to meet growth expectations, its students need to be in the 45th median growth percentile of math and reading. MGP compares a student’s scores to students in the same grade across the state who scored similarly the previous year.
BHE was in the 41st median growth percentile, while TRE was in the 34th percentile. The results were not ideal, but Kobza was complimentary of those schools’ educators.
“The ones who aren’t meeting it, it’s not like they aren’t doing an excellent job with students,” he said.
Kobza said the results were not quite what he was expecting.
“For the most part, our students performed above the state average on our assessment,” Kobza said. “It comes down to the fact that we’re talking about small numbers of kids … Without large numbers, it can be skewed pretty easily by one or two student results.”
Kobza said the district needs to improve its results, but it’s far from time to panic.
“It’s one of those situations where it’s not a huge concern,” he said. “We’re always looking for ways to improve and continue to grow, and to continue to prepare students for whatever lies ahead of them … We’ll look at it, make adjustments if and where necessary, but for the most part we’re pleased with where we’re at.”
In Sheridan County School District 2, four schools are exceeding expectations and four schools are meeting expectations.
Similar to SCSD1, the vast majority of SCSD2 schools stayed at the same level as last year. Coffeen Elementary was the only school to change. Last year, it exceeded expectations, while this year it is meeting expectations.
Woodland Park and Sagebrush were two of the top elementary schools in the state. Woodland Park had 81.7 percent of its students proficient in math and reading, and was in the 72nd percentile for median growth. Sagebrush was at 81.4 percent of students proficient in math and reading and in the 71st percentile of median growth.
Overall, SCSD2 was one of, if not the best, districts in the state, but superintendent Craig Dougherty said there is still room for improvement.
“We’re not satisfied with where we are at all,” he said. “We want to be number one in the country. Our kids are going to have to compete globally.”
For SCSD3, Arvada Elementary is under small-school review, and the Clearmont K-12 school is partially meeting expectations. This is also the first year for Clearmont that kindergarten through 12th grade were considered as one school.
Clearmont was below its target in achievement. To meet the target, at least 52 percent of students should be proficient or better on state tests in reading, math and science.
SCSD3 superintendent Charles Auzqui said he acknowledges the need for improvement, but said the reports don’t completely capture the students’ abilities.
“We can’t continue to do business the way we’ve done it,” Auzqui said. “But we firmly believe our kids are better than what the state scores show.”
Auzqui said improving the scores are a main focus for him. He said he will reflect on how to help students, and will meet with the district’s Board of Trustees to re-evaluate teaching methods.
“We’ve got to be held accountable,” Auzqui said.