By Megan Kelley
In recent meetings, Lake Orion Community School’s Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Heidi Mercer has informed the school board of plans to test students in order to assess which students are high-risk of not being proficient in state assessment.
District Data Specialist Missy Butki presented the data collected on district students and their achievements to the board at the Oct. 28 meeting.
Generally, the district discusses beginning-of-the-school year data with the understanding of a “Summer Slide” — referring to the slight regression generally seen after students have been away from school during the summer months.
This year, however, instead of a “Summer Slide” the district is discussing a “COVID Slide”, as students have been out of classrooms and participating in remote learning since March, Butki said.
The data was collected among Kindergarten through eighth-grade students district-wide using nationally-normed benchmark assessments for reading and math. These assessments are done through state-approved vendor, FastBridge Learning.
Butki was sure to point out that the benchmarks and norms traditionally used were not adjusted due to COVID-19 and school shutdowns.
“A lot of teachers and administrators, coming into this year, were wondering: ‘Since our kids were gone since March, are the benchmarks that were set normally last year, are those going to be lowered? Because our kids are going to come in lower, so are the benchmarks going to be lower?’ And the answer is no,” Butki said. “The benchmarks and norms established should give us grade level equivalencies. So, if we lower those, we’re just going to get false positives and think that we’re doing ok.”
That in mind, false positives are still possible because of the remote setting in which students were learning during the end of the 2019-2020 school year and the beginning school this fall. Students could have lost their internet connect, parents may have helped students complete their assessments, etc., Butki said.
“The ‘Summer Slide’ — but again you have to kind of replace that with the ‘COVID Slide’– suggest that you can expect the scores to be lower than prior years when you compare them to the fall of 2019,” Butki said. “You can expect your reading…to be a one-to-two month decline. Reading fluency, how quickly they can read a passage, that’s two-to-four-months decline. And general math skills is two-to-four months decline as well.”
Additionally, the scores of students in lower grades are expected to be more greatly impacted than the scores of students in middle and high school, said Butki.
While a majority of students participated in assessments that were conducted remotely, K-1st grade assessments were held in-person with teacher administration. Moreover, second and third-graders were given reading fluency assessments in a remote setting but still with teacher administration.
With all of this being conducted in recent months, the district has been able to compile the data to indicate which students are high-risk and in need of additional academic support.
District documents showed that this fall (the 2020-2021 school year), 75 percent of K-8 students were at low-risk of not being proficient in reading on a state assessment; 19 percent showed some-risk; and six percent were high-risk.
Comparing this data to the fall of the 2019-2020 school year, the data is exactly the same.
“When you look at it like this, and this is kind of the birds-eye view, all of the kids in one spot, we look the same,” Butki said.
However, when the data is broken down by grade level, it is immediately obvious that the more high-risk grade in the district is first grade.
In the fall of the 2019-2020 school year, eight percent of district first graders were considered high-risk in reading.
This year, however, 20 percent of first-graders are listed as high-risk of not being proficient in reading on a state assessment — more than double the previous year.
Jumping back to the reading data among K-8 students, overall: in the winter of the 2019-2020 school year, 76 percent of all K-8 students in the district were at low-risk of not being proficient in reading on a state assessment, while 19 percent showed some-risk and five percent were high-risk.
While this means that only one percent fell from “low-risk” to “some-risk” and one percent fell from “some-risk” down to “low-risk”, it is important to note that one percent is equivalent to roughly 50 students, Butki explained.
In order to identify these students, Butki placed grades 1-5 and grades 6-8 into pivot tables. These pivot tables show which students went up in a performance band (high-risk, some-risk and low-risk) in reading, stayed in their performance band or fell a performance band.
This data showed that 240 students in grades 1-5 dropped a performance band in reading.
Because of the data depicting that 20 percent of first graders were now high-risk, Butki decided to hone in on that group of students, finding that 121 first graders fell a performance band in reading, making up more than 50 percent of all performance band drops in grades 1-5.
Middle school students were not impacted as greatly as elementary-age students in reading. Data showed that about nine percent of middle school students fell a performance band in reading.
In math, the district found that K-8 students were not impacted nearly as much as they were in reading.
“We have more high-risk students in math than we do in reading but for the most part there was very little change except for maybe fifth grade,” Butki said.
District documents showed that fifth-grade students went from 3.7 percent high-risk to 6.7 percent high-risk.
“You can call that a double but it’s not that significant,” Butki said. “I know the curriculum in fourth grade that they missed and I know how fifth-grade starts and I totally know why that’s where more of our high-risk students are going to show up.”
Now, because the district has this data, they can take the necessary steps to address high-risk students.
“Some of our data-driven decisions that we’ve done is that we’ve put all of our reading interventionist work and support in first grade. So, all of our buildings have a kindergarten and a first-grade reading interventionist and there’s also some for the upper level, we’ve put them into first grade,” Butki said. “We have also streamlined that process of once they get the screen or information, they dig deeper into some diagnostics. We’ve streamlined that process to get to the skill that the child is failing at, do an intervention, test them again, progress monitoring, move on to the next one…”
Butki informed the board that they would continue to build the data and reporting and encourages teachers to utilize the data with their students.