By JEROD CLAPP
Just like the rest of the school districts in Clark and Floyd counties, Clarksville Community Schools had their own ups and downs in their ISTEP+ scores for 2013.
But Superintendent Kim Knott said while adjustments are coming, there’s a lot for her schools to find pride in.
“We were right there with some of the top-performing elementaries,” Knott said. “When you look at Utica [Elementary in Greater Clark County Schools], we’re just not far off the mark at all. If we can get our math scores to be near the same level as our English/language arts scores, you will see an elementary that will be a distinguished elementary in the state and possibly the nation.”
High scores at Clarksville Elementary and slumps at Clarksville Middle give the district different sets of goals and challenges, but Knott said she thinks she knows how to take them on.
Third- and fourth-graders in the district saw some leveling, but also good improvement. Fourth-graders performed much better than last year’s group, raising ELA scores by almost 18 percentage points, math by 9.2 percentage points and students passing both subjects by 16 percentage points.
Third-graders held their performance steady for the most part, raising ELA and students passing both by just more than 1 percentage point and backpedaling by half a percentage point in math.
Knott said some of the ELA performance boost for fourth-graders was because of additional training given to those teachers.
“Part of that in ELA is attributed to the professional development that we started in fourth grade a year and a half ago, but we got to see the full effects of it last year in fourth grade,” Knott said. “That’s why they performed well. Teachers really focused on teaching the appropriate content in English/language arts, really did a lot of time focusing on a guaranteed viable curriculum.”
But the results of how third-graders from 2012 did when they progressed to fourth grade in 2013 show a slight decrease in ELA scores, but gains in math and students passing both subjects.
From fifth grade on, students had more difficulty on the test. Fifth- and eighth-graders saw boosts in math performance, nearly 10 percentage points each, but sixth-graders saw a nearly 14 percentage point drop in scores over last year’s group.
But tracking students from one grade to another, ELA scores dropped almost universally, with 2012’s sixth-graders moving to seventh grade in 2013 making the only gain in the subject area.
Knott said while internal assessments closely mirrored ISTEP expectations at the elementary school, she said middle school showed results they didn’t expect.
Nonetheless, she said they have to address the drops in scores.
“The middle school scores were not what we had hoped they would be,” Knott said. “We’re very concerned about them; we performed much better in math at that school than we did in ELA. We showed great gains in fifth grade and eighth grade math, but we’ve got a lot of work to do at the middle school.”
Seventh-graders showed the biggest drop in ELA scores over last year’s group of students with a nearly 21 percentage point drop in that subject.
Knott said they’ll combat that shortfall by keeping closer track of how students are performing throughout the year. She said they’ll have to look at student mastery more than just once every quarter.
“We’re going to start with the weekly assessments in the second nine weeks,” Knott said. “We’re going to make sure that our weekly assessments parallel ISTEP assessments.”
She said if students need better mastery of multiple choice exams or writing prompts, depending on what ISTEP requires in a given subject area, they’ll work with students on improving those abilities.
With a mobility rate four times higher than the state average, it’s difficult to keep students on the same level of mastery. That, coupled with the amount of time it takes to get student records when a student moves into the district, Knott said they’re going to adjust how they deal with that problem.
“We know we have to do some kind of immediate assessment when that child comes in,” Knott said. “It’s taking too long to get the records from the school from where the student left, so we have to have an assessment ready to give that we can say where a student is, what skills they need and develop a plan of action for that kind of intervention right away. That’s not an easy task given that we’re so small and we don’t have a lot of additional staff.”
She said the goals they have set in passing scores for her schools — keeping elementary ELA at about 90 percent, bringing their math up to 90 percent, and getting the middle school about 80 percent in both subjects — she doesn’t think it’s going to be unattainable.