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Good PAWS figures for Shoshoni schools; lower grades gain the most

Aug 30, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Shoshoni schools superintendent Tammy Cox said she is proud of her district's results on this year's Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students.

"PAWS data at Fremont County School District 24 is on the rise in nearly all content areas and grade levels," Cox said. "(We're) exceeding the state average in almost every area."

The annual PAWS test measures student progress in grades 3-8 in reading, math and science. Data from the testing is used to determine whether students are progressing toward federal and state educational goals as outlined through Adequate Yearly Progress and the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act.

Individualized learning

Cox says the improvements in Shoshoni came after teachers started designing individualized learning plans for underperforming students, especially in reading and math.

"I think that's the key," Cox said. "They're pretty much customizing programs for those kids. ... We have a razor sharp focus on what we need to do (for) every child."

Instructors in Shoshoni also started implementing Common Core State Standards early, she said. Questions on the 2013 PAWS were more closely aligned with the new standards, and in spring 2014 the tests will include mostly new questions with all items addressing the common core.

"We saw the writing on the wall," Cox said. "We'd already dug in and had teachers already teaching to the common core for the last ... 1.5 years."

The CCSS initiative is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear standards for students in language arts and mathematics. The standards, which were approved last year in Wyoming, are meant to provide a consistent and clear understanding of what students are expected to learn so teachers and parents can better help them succeed.

Results

The most dramatic increases in scores for reading and math in Shoshoni came at the younger grade levels. Third-graders last year were 89 percent proficient and advanced in math compared to more than 95 percent this year. Third-grade reading scores did go down, however, from 79 percent proficient and advanced last year to 65 percent proficient and advanced this year.

Fourth-graders did markedly better this year, bringing percentages up tens of points in reading and math. Last year Shoshoni fourth-graders were 61 percent proficient and advanced in math compared to 84 percent proficient and advanced this year.

Only 57 percent of the fourth grade was proficient and advanced in reading in 2011-2012, but the number has risen to 89 percent in 2012-13.

The fifth grade also saw improvement in math, though reading scores stayed relatively level. Results show 85 percent of Shoshoni fifth-graders were proficient and advanced in math last year compared to more than 95 percent this year. Reading scores last year showed 77 percent of fifth-graders were proficient and advanced last year, down slightly to 76 percent this year.

Sixth-graders did better in 2012-13 as well.

Last year they were 84 percent proficient and advanced in math, up to 92 percent this year, and in reading they were 76 percent proficient and advanced in reading compared to 88 percent this year.

The older students tested didn't fare as well this spring. Seventh-graders last year tested 87 percent proficient and advanced in math, down to 80 percent this year. In reading they were 77 percent proficient and advanced last year down to 76 percent this year. In the eighth-grade, scores showed students were 90 percent proficient and advanced in math last year, down to 74 percent this year. And in reading they were 90 percent proficient and advanced last year, down to 83 percent this year.

Science

Fourth- and eighth-graders also take a science test through PAWS. Again, younger students in Shoshoni showed improvement in that subject this year while the older group tested worse. The fourth grade last year was 39 percent proficient and advanced in science, up to 63 percent this year. Eighth-graders in 2011-12 tested 52 percent proficient and advanced in science down to 31 percent this year.

"We have a little work to do in science," Cox said.

A new set of science standards is coming out this year, she said, and teachers and administrators in Shoshoni will work to integrate the new concepts into daily lesson plans. Instructors will begin collaborating in professional learning communities this year, and Cox said a new staff member also has been hired in Shoshoni to focus on science standards.

High achievers

Looking ahead, Cox said it will be important to start paying more attention to Shoshoni students who are advanced for their grade level.

"Those kids kind of stay invisible ... but now we're looking at (them)," she said. "That's another goal. We feel we're doing a good job focusing on those underachievers and closing the gap, so now it's time to look at high achievers."

For example, she said students who are ready to learn more advanced math concepts will be allowed to study with older age groups.

"We're allowing seventh-graders ready for algebra to follow that continuum of learning," she said. "We're trying to break down the barriers of grade levels if the kids are ready."

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