By Laura Katauskas
Preliminary results based on state assessments show positive growth and achievement for the Valley View Community Unit School District through its core belief that every child can learn despite obstacles still at the root of its own accountability as a district.
In an academic update, school administrators shared its perspective on Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and SAT state assessments.
Superintendent James Mitchem believes the success of the district comes from its core values, referring back to the “new view” put in place a few years prior, placing an emphasis on the ability of every student’s ability to learn despite any variables, be it socio-economic status, race, gender or culture.
“I want to commend the team work done over the years to get us to the place,” said Mitchem. “I’ve often said that it took the storm before the quiet. We have weathered the storm and are now beginning to see the quiet for the district. The foundation of our pillars is our belief that our kids can succeed…We keep a constant eye on beliefs and values which gives us the right mindframe to continue growth and achievement.”
Within its PARCC assessment, which gauges college and career readiness, given to third through eighth graders, the general outlook shows positive growth, with notable trends in elementary math and middle school English language arts.
In one perspective, comparing class levels from 2016 and 2017 (different students each year) gains have been made in the majority of levels; though a few red flags for 6th and 8th grade math and 5th grade English language arts.
“Our students are performing, and overall these results are celebratory,” said Karen Flores, executive director of assessment for grades 6-8. “Though we will not ignore that we need to further diagnose the needs in math more effectively. What we are hearing is that it goes back to basic math skills, that need to be corrected…So we have many pockets exceeding in growth and we also will recognize that some development is needed.”
Another cause for celebration is the level of achievement students are showing when students are tracked from one year to the next.
“When looking at the same students we have a tremendous amount of celebration that is apparent in our scores in both subject areas,” said Adam Hurder, executive director of assessment, pre-k through 5.
Nearly all cohorts improved from one year to the next in each subject. (3rd to 4th grade math, while a decline, showed nearly double digit improvement this year compared to average growth at the state level.) A cohort is a group of students who progress through the grade levels within the same school or district.
Hurder said the good news is that the decline still shows improvement as a district over last year; however admittedly that number is still not acceptable and will be a heavy focus in fourth grade surrounding math.
Student growth in Valley View exceeds that of the State in 9 out of 10 cohorts; in English language arts, 5 out of 6 grade levels improved year over year; 5 out of 5 cohorts improved over their prior achievement; 5 out of 5 cohorts increased college readiness at greater rates than the State; Grades 7 and 8 both achieved and grew at higher rates than the State Math; 4 out of 6 grade levels improved year over year; 4 out of 5 cohorts improved over their prior achievement; 4 out of 5 cohorts increased college readiness at greater rates than the State;and grades 3 and 7 both achieved and grew at higher rates than the State.
“We see the progress of our students everyday due to the hard work of our educators and this is just one of the quantifiable measures we use to measure success,” noted Rachel Kinder, assistant superintendent.
Last year also was the first year that the SAT was given to 11th graders as opposed to the ACT, giving the district its first baseline to begin assessments for reading and math. The district sits behind the State in benchmarks and will rely on the data assessment to allow the district to focus where its needs lie.
The district intends to use the SAT suite of tools for 8th to 11th grade to track growth and career and college Readiness finding that initial data points correlate from PARCC to SAT.
“It’s really exciting because we are seeing that we are maintaining a course that is steady and that is right and that it is impacting our students,” said Flores.