Test results have Essex Westford School District looking to math audit

School districts across the state have received their individual 2021-2022 Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) scores.
Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 6:33 AM EST
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ESSEX, Vt. (WCAX) - School districts across the state have received their individual 2021-2022 Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) scores, the standardized test in Vermont for grades three through nine.

So far, only individual districts have received their SBAC results, and it is our understanding the statewide data hasn’t been made public yet, meaning districts aren’t yet able to compare to one another.

We asked the Vermont Agency of Education when the SBAC scores for schools across the state would be made public, and were told that they are working on an announcement for the near future.

But now that individual districts have this year’s data, some are crunching the numbers to see how to improve their own processes if necessary.

One of those districts is the Essex Westford School District which is hoping to continue strategies that have worked in the past, and is looking to see how to specifically improve in math. The Essex Westford School District is one of the biggest in the state.

There are lots of methods and exams a district conducts to get a picture of proficiency in a grade level for a certain subject.

Focusing on their most recent math SBACs, EWSD grades three through nine average a 47% proficiency level. The highest score would be 100%.

Breaking down the data even further, students transitioning from grade four to five dropped in proficiency by around 10% and students transitioning from grades eight to nine dropped in proficiency by around 14%. But there was growth too, with the sixth to seventh-grade cohort increasing proficiency by 16% over the past two assessment years.

K-12 students also take a test called the STAR MATH exam. Based on state standards, the Essex Westford School District has grade levels with results ranging from 7% through 26% of students per grade meeting or above state proficiency. EWSD says they’ll be raising their district standards to align with those of the state.

So, for solutions, the district is looking toward a math audit to be conducted. Director of Learning and Curriculum Jackie Ramsey-Tolman says this would be to meet proficiency goals and take a look at instruction, and what can be built on. Some examples of education components that will be analyzed include looking at the daily schedule, the amount of time that allows for diverse instruction and intervention, and looking how resources are allocated toward math. It’s also going to see if they’re using the right assessments and take a look at other cultural components.

“We need to deeply understand our why. And then we need to deeply understand the most efficacious practices and the how, and then how that’s going to translate into action steps. There’s a sense of urgency, and there’s a sense of, you know, needing to plan based on that evidence. So that we don’t push things too quickly but yet again, we have this sense of urgency and that we want all students to be proficient and, and succeeding,” said Ramsey-Tolman.

Ramsey-Tolman said they expect to engage in some sort of consolation shortly after winter break, with activity over the next two to three years.

“We really want to ensure that we have this comprehensive understanding of every systemic component in Essex Westford as it relates to mathematics, from preschool, all the way up to 12th grade, right? So when you think about that, and you think about students accessing mathematics instruction, first and foremost, in their grade level most essential standards and ensuring that access for all students and then ensuring that we have relevant and timely second tier interventions for our students that might need it,” said Ramsey-Tolman.

But the audit isn’t the only work the district has considered when it comes to increasing proficiency in general, and in math. The district says the past few years they’ve implemented a program where all K-12 grades have math interventionists where data is tracked every few days in classroom adjust and target instruction when needed. Ramsey-Tolman says this is something they plan to continue in the short term, noting data from day-to-day classroom operations is the more relevant when it comes to impacting kids immediately and directly.

And when it comes to overall test scores, Ramsey-Tolman adds the same achievement gaps that existed before COVID remained consistent during the pandemic, not necessarily worse.

EWSD said educators in the field were told by the state to archive their state assessment data because of the shift to a new test vendor this year, noting the scores won’t be available unless they’re archived.