Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Test scores indicate scholastic prowess

ISAT results show Blaine County students ahead

Express Staff Writer

Tests scores recently released by the Idaho State Board of Education reveal Blaine County students on average outperformed the academic growth of their peers across the state during the fall 2004 Idaho Standards Achievement Test.

"Ordinarily, our students exceed students in the state overall. We have an excellent education system here and a lot of dedicated parents and staff members who make this happen," Jerry Hutchins, Blaine County School's director of technology, testing and data base management, said.

On average, Blaine County students in third to 10th grades showed a higher percentage of academic growth from fall 2003 to fall 2004 in the three academic subjects tested.

Throughout Idaho, students in second to 10th-grades take three multiple-choice tests in the academic areas of reading, math and language usage in the fall and the spring.

According to Hutchins, the Blaine County School District primarily uses the fall scores as a base to measure student progression throughout the year.

The Idaho State Board of Education utilizes the fall test as a means to measure the growth in student performance from year to year on a state, district and school level. In order to calculate year to year academic growth, the State Board compares the results from the same students who took the fall 2003 test to the scores earned in fall 2004.

The Board utilizes a growth target calculated from the number of points called Rash Units that a student earns from one school year to the next. The Northwest Evaluation Association calculates the standard based on the average growth of students with similar scores across the country. This is the first year the state released statistics indicating the percentage of students meeting the growth target. Growth indicators are available for grades three to 10.

"I think that the most important factor in producing the growth is the strong academic focus of administrators and staff," Hutchins commented.

The year to year growth results indicate Blaine County students, on average, are furthest ahead of other Idaho students in the subject of reading. Blaine County students in third to 10th-grades exceeded the state reading average growth rate by the largest percentage, nearly four-percent. An average of 53.8-percent of third to 10th-grade Blaine County students met their individual growth target compared to an average of 50-percent of students at the state level.

Fifth-graders at Hemingway and Hailey Elementary outperformed Carey students in reading, a performance trend in the subject that continued with Wood River schools scoring higher than Carey students from the fifth through 10th-grades.

Blaine County students also excelled in math, with the highest average number of students, 57.5-percent, two-percent higher than the state level meeting their individual growth target.

In the area of language usage, Blaine County students nudged by the state average by .7-percent. An average of 56.5-percent of third to 10th-grade Blaine County students met their individual growth target. The ninth-grade classes tested at Carey and Wood River Middle Schools both fell short of the state average.

The year to year test results indicated that a larger percentage of the Hispanic or Latino students in Blaine County exceeded the academic growth rate target when compared in each subject area with other Hispanics in the state and the overall state average.

Hutchins attributes the Hispanic performance to the district's dual immersion program and to the continued emphasis on the English as a Second Language program.

"(The ESL program) is getting them up to speed and providing them with as much assistance as possible to help them transition to education in this country," he said.

In each of the subject areas tested, various grade levels at Carey School typically recorded the highest and the lowest percentage of academic growth when compared to grades at other district schools.

"Basically it is a statistical phenomenon. Because the classes have a very small number of student, one group of 30 students can be very different from another group," Hutchins said.

Idaho students will take the spring ISAT between April 11 and May 20. The federal government uses the spring test results to determine if schools meet No Child Left Behind act requirements. The spring test includes the first science section that will be administered to fifth, seventh and 10th-grades.

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