Originally Published: October 5, 2017 6:02 a.m.
For the second year in a row, Mile High Middle School eighth-graders’ scores on the AzMerit standardized math exam were less than stellar.
Only about 9 percent of those who took the test — about 62 percent of the class of 325 students — scored at proficiency level.
“That’s a little bit of a downer,” said Prescott Unified School District Governing Board member Maureen Erickson about the scores.
Assistant Schools Superintendent Mardi Read offered a highlight of the AzMerit test scores at the PUSD board meeting on Tuesday night. The test scores students from third through 11th grade in language arts and math.
For the most part, Prescott’s students continue to score above the state average; no third-graders will be retained because they did not reach proficiency in reading, Read said. But eighth-grade math for the pre-Algebra or basic math students has proved something of a “conundrum,” she admitted.
What these scores do not reflect is the fact that the district over the course of the past three years has pushed students in the middle school years to pursue more advanced math and more than 40 percent of the eighth graders last year were enrolled in one of the four Algebra and one geometry classes, school administrators explained. Those students do not take the AzMerit math exam, but rather take another exam specific to their advanced math courses.
Emphasizing that the AzMerit exams are a snapshot, or “moment in time,” Read and Superintendent Joe Howard stated the number of students taking advanced math, as well as the growth teachers are witnessing with those in the more basic math courses are not reflected in these numbers.
That does not mean the administrators and teachers have ignored the test results.
Mile High Principal Mark Goligoski said the students last year who did not reach proficiency were required to participate in an intervention class intended to help them bolster their skills and get some re-teaching in the areas that they had yet to master.
This year, Goligoski said, rather than students getting tutored outside their regular math class, the students are seeing their math teachers twice a day, with the teachers relying on a national assessment tool, Galileo, to target trouble spots.
As these teachers know their students, Goligoski said the teachers are better able to figure out what the students need to be retaught so they become comfortable with the subject material. The teachers are striving to track the students as they progress in their ability to perform the specific standards required.
Again, Goligoski said he is proud that so many of the eighth-graders are stretching themselves mathematically, and is committed to assuring those who are struggling get the help they require to be successful. Many of the students are making strides even though they may have yet to meet the state proficiency levels.
Goligoski noted eighth-grade math scores are particularly low across the state.
To Howard, a former Mile High principal, these scores are not a surprise.
By accelerating students to more advanced math, with those students earning high school credit, Howard said it is expected that a portion of those who end up taking the AzMerit exam are those for whom math is not their best subject.
So the key is to continue to “differentiate” instruction in the classroom so that every student gets the help they need to become proficient, Howard said.
He said he has no doubt the efforts of a dedicated staff will pay off over time. But he and the school board members also noted that this is also a call for additional academic resources that have been sorely lacking in recent years.
“We want all our kids to be proficient … and we’re not going to rest until they all are,” Howard concluded.
In other business, the district administration
• Accepted the resignation of Shawn West, who for the last two years has headed up the transportation and maintenance departments.
West was instrumental in the purchase of a fleet of 10 new buses and overseeing construction of the new high school roof. He also was the one to propose to the administration combining what previously was two distinct jobs into one administration post.
West has accepted a similar post in Show Low. The district will rely on interim leaders until a new director is hired.
• Agreed to work with the city on an infrastructure project at Mile High Middle School that will include building a sidewalk in an alleyway between the school and the adjacent field and restrict traffic to northbound only.
The bridge deck leading into the high school is also slated for repair. City officials stated they expect the work will be done over the summer so as not to interfere with daily school operations.