The Jenkins Jr./Sr. High has failed to make “adequate yearly progress” for the last two years on state testing and is being required to improve its reading and math scores on the next round of state testing in 2015-16, according to a letter sent to parents from the Chewelah School District earlier this summer. A plan to improve test scores is required in order for the district to be eligible for federal funding under the No Child Left Behind Act.
The English and Language Arts scores for students in the 6, 7 and 8th grades in 2014-15 came in around the 50 percent mark of students passing the test. Math scores for the same group of middle school students averaged 43 percent of students passing. The other group of students to take the test, the 11th grade students, had only 27 percent of students pass math and 54 percent pass English and Language Arts.
Jenkins Jr./Sr. High Principal Shawn Anderson, said the low test results were a combination of high testing expectations from the state, as well as the ability for 11th grade students to opt out of taking the test.
“Last year, the expectation set by the state was that 100 percent of students would pass the tests in reading and math, which is really an unattainable goal. There is not one school in the state where that happened,” Anderson said. “Also, our 11th grade students were able to opt-out of the test and many did because it was not required, so our participation numbers were down.”
For those students who did take the test, Anderson said students have been in the transition stage of getting used to the new Common Core standards that were adopted by Washington State schools in 2011. Common Core standards were developed by state education leaders and governors in 48 states in order to attain standardized learning goals for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. While the adoption of Common Core is not mandated by the federal government, schools are eligible for federal dollars if they have been adopted. Today, 42 states, including Washington, have voluntarily adopted and are working to implement the Common Core standards.
“There is a lot of effort that has to go into adopting the Common Core standards, including professional development for teachers,” said Anderson. “We are working on that and planning to implement several other tools this year as well to help both students and staff successfully work with Common Core.”
Tools that will be used to help improve school performance include collaboration with the Washington State Leadership Academy that focuses on a “more effective alignment of standards” so students are better prepared for testing as well as the school introducing an “academic vocabulary system,” said Anderson.
“We are working on teaching students the critical vocabulary of Common Core that focuses on 55 words that the standards use. Words like ‘analyze’, ‘cite’, ‘develop’, ‘elaborate’ and ‘expand in detail’ all have to be well understood to know what the standards are talking about in relation to a particular subject,” said Anderson.
Jenkins Jr./Sr. High staff will also be spending the late-start Mondays focusing on professional development, including implementing ways to better and more frequently assess students’ math skills and help those who are struggling earlier in the year.
To help make sure parents are engaged in the process, Anderson plans to begin a Parent Advisory Committee in October to help the school gain feedback and communicate with parents as the school year progresses.
With these efforts at work, Anderson said the testing scores for the school should improve this year and within the next few years.
“In addition to helping our current students understand the Common Core standards and be successful in testing, the fact that the district has adopted Common Core as a K-12 school in the Chewelah School District means that students coming into junior high within the next few years will already be better equipped, as they will be learning the material sooner,” Anderson explained.
For more information, contact the Jenkins Jr./Sr. High School at 685-6800.
By Jamie Henneman, The Independent Staff