11-22-13: Students outperform state in core academic subjects
11-22-13: Students outperform state in core academic subjects
Posted on 11/22/2013

For the second consecutive year, Puyallup School District students outperformed the state average in every subject and at every grade level on state tests administered last spring.


The scores released this fall also showed that students made gains in many of the core academic subjects — math, science, reading, and writing — compared to the previous year.


For most elementary and junior high students, last spring marks the final time they will have taken the Measurement of Student Progress (MSP) in math, reading, and writing.


The MSP is being replaced by a new “Smarter Balanced” assessment, which was tested last spring in 11 Puyallup schools.


The new assessment will be tested again this spring in every junior high school and all but two (Firgrove and Spinning) elementary schools.


Glenn Malone, executive director of assessment, accountability, and student success, discussed at a recent school board meeting how the state is preparing to usher in the new era of Smarter Balanced testing.


He also shared with the board the good news about the 2013 state assessments.


The student performance is indicative, Malone said, of the continued hard work that staff, parents, school volunteers, and community have been doing to help students succeed.


Math improvement


While math scores remained relatively neutral across the district compared to the math achievements both districtwide and at individual schools. Throughout the district, sixth graders scored significantly higher than the state average in math. Test scores released by the state this fall show that 74 percent of sixth graders in Puyallup met or exceeded state standards in math compared to 59 percent statewide.


The gain last year coincides with new math materials given to teachers last fall to supplement and reinforce concepts in the district-adopted math curriculum.Image


Third graders at Fruitland Elementary School also had a strong showing on the state test with 93.6 percent of students meeting or exceeding state math standards — the highest math score in the district and an increase of three percentage points from the previous year.


Shaw Road Elementary fifth graders also topped 90 percent of students meeting the state standards in math.


Educators credit several learning tools and strategies for the successful 2013 math scores.


This past year was the third year, for example, of a three-year district math improvement plan and the second year that students and teachers used the “Bridges in Mathematics” curriculum in kindergarten through grade five.


Teachers say the math curriculum is rich with hands-on manipulatives and lessons to reinforce math learning.


At Fruitland Elementary, Principal Laurie Orheim credits the student success not only to her third-grade teaching team, but also to the entire school staff, parents, and volunteers who focus on student achievement in all grades.


Another key to success, Fruitland Elementary teachers say, is a “Qwizdom” computer software program used in the classroom to reinforce math learning.


The program engages students by providing colorful, interactive math lessons, as well as pre- and post-tests to help measure student progress.


During a math lesson last month, third grade teachers Janis Sloan-Framke, Jenifer Willis, and Cynthia Edmon used the program in their respective classrooms to teach different math concepts.


The three teachers and many others using IXL — an online computer math program — to reinforce math skills. One benefit, they say, is that students and their families can log into the IXL site at home to practice state and national math standards.


Sloan-Framke said the teachers also work closely as a team, regularly assess students on their skills and knowledge, use computation tests as weekly timed assessments, and provide small group interventions to students who need extra help.


The district’s intensive focus on math improvement in the past several years is also evident in the number of tenth graders who passed End-of-Course math exams.


Three years ago, about 70 percent of the first group of tenth graders who took the algebra and geometry exams met standards. This past spring, 82 percent of students met or exceeded standards on the algebra test and nearly 90 percent in geometry.


Science gains


Students in grades five and eight scored significantly higher than the state average in science.


In Puyallup, 74.8 percent of fifth graders met or exceeded science standards compared to 66.5 percent statewide. Similarly, 73.2 percent of eighth graders met or exceeded standards compared to 64.9 percent statewide.


ImageFifth graders at Woodland Elementary School also had noteworthy scores on the state test with 91.8 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards — the highest science score in the district and the second consecutive year that the school’s fifth-grade class surpassed 90 percent.


Elementary teachers throughout the district report continued success with integrating technology and using the district’s science kits, which encourage hands-on learning.


During a recent science kit lesson on living ecosystems, for example, Woodland Elementary fifth-grade teachers Allan Cranston, Roger Smith, Dorothy Espedal-Johnson, and Michele Bledsoe instructed students to build a combination terrarium/aquarium using a two-liter plastic pop bottle.


Students built the terrarium on the top half of the bottle, filling it with dirt and planting rye grass, alfalfa, and mustard seeds. As the seeds sprouted, students shared their observations of plant growth data aloud as a class and then recorded the data in their science journals.


The fifth graders filled the bottom half of the bottle with water, added allodia, duckweed, and mixed algae plants for food, then scooped in two mosquito fish and several snails to create the living ecosystem.


Pressing jewelers loupes (magnifiers) against the bottles, students peered inside their aquariums and recorded observations about the fish and snails.


“This is fun because you get to work with live animals and plants,” said student Adam Tabor as he watched the mosquito fish swim about in their new surroundings. Tabor said he is considering a career in science when he grows up.


Smith reminded students during their observation time that the living ecosystems “represent the bigger world we live in.”


In addition to hands-on science learning, Cranston said the Qwizdom computer software program — just like the one used by Fruitland Elementary teachers in math — “has made a great impact on student learning in science.”


While 91.8 percent is a notable science score, he said the Woodland Elementary staff won’t be satisfied until students achieve 100 percent.


Junior high students also had a strong showing in science, with 73.2 percent of eighth graders districtwide meeting standards — well above the state average.


Reading and writing improvement


ImageOne of the largest gains in reading this past year is reflected in the scores at Karshner Elementary, where 93.2 percent of sixth graders met or exceeded standards — up from 70.5 percent the previous year.


Principal Arturo Gonzalez said the school implemented a schoolwide “Accelerated Reader” (AR) program last year and recognizes students who meet or exceed their reading goals.


The AR program encourages students to read books and take comprehension tests on what they have read. Points are earned for a passing score.


Some of the reading gains can also be attributed, educators say, to a new “Journeys” reading curriculum in grades two through six.


The curriculum launched last year in 16 of the district’s 21 elementary schools, expanded this fall to the remaining five schools.


“All of our teachers from kindergarten through grade six implemented small group reading instruction from the Journeys curriculum, and it has been very successful,” Gonzalez said.


Other notable achievements in reading scores were seen at Mt. View Elementary, where nearly 98 percent of third graders met standards; Fruitland Elementary, where 96 percent of third graders met standards; and Woodland Elementary, where 90 percent of sixth graders met standards.


The most recent test scores also show that writing remained strong at the high school level.Image


Writing, which is tested in grade 10, continued an upward trend from previous years of strong test score results with 91 percent of students across the district meeting standards.


All three comprehensive high schools topped 90 percent of students meeting or exceeding the writing standards on last spring’s assessment.


Bob Frey, an American Studies teacher at Emerald Ridge High, said writing is a key component in his class.


“In addition to examining great works from American literature and addressing the English standards, the American Studies curriculum allows students to communicate in writing while demonstrating content knowledge in United States history,” he said.


Frey continued, “Instead of students answering questions with multiple choice and matching tests, I challenge my students to communicate conceptual ideas using a variety of writing strategies.


To see a complete breakdown of how the Puyallup School District and its 32 schools scored on last spring’s state tests, visit the state Superintendent of Public Instruction website at www.k12.wa.us and click the State Report Card icon. The state website also provides information about student demographics and shows how each school fared on annual measurement objectives. Spinning and Firgrove elementary schools have been identified as Emerging Schools by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver accountability system