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Durango School District 9-R student achievement scores improve

Students show growth in reading and math in 2021-22
Durango School District 9-R students showed improvements in achievement scores, both from the beginning of the school year to the end, and year-over-year. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Durango School District 9-R is reporting student achievement scores increased during the most recent school year, both from the beginning to the end of the school year, and year-over-year compared with last year.

The tests scores are based on several online diagnostic assessments administered by the school district throughout the year.

For the most part, student achievement is up across the board, but the school district highlighted several key data points:

  • Miller Middle School sixth graders scored 22% higher than the national average and 17% higher than the state in reading.
  • Eighty-three percent of kindergarten students districtwide showed proficiency in reading.
  • Tenth graders saw the greatest improvement in reading proficiency with a 12% increase. Students achieved 15% higher rates of Mid/Above Grade Level compared to national iReady
  • Fifth graders at Park Elementary saw 214% annual typical growth in math.

Dylan Connell, director of instruction and professional development, attributes the success to excitement among staff members about working with students after two years of uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the efforts made by students to retain information. He also credits Superintendent Karen Cheser for encouraging the district to analyze student data to make decisions based on curriculum.

“There was incredible work done this year from teachers and principals to make sure that COVID is not going to have a lifelong impact on the learning of our students,” Connell said.

The school district said it is proud of the numbers after dealing with the adversity of COVID-19. Cheser was especially excited about the way students and staff members were able to return after the many distractions caused by the pandemic.

“When you look at these numbers, remember that they represent an enormous amount of hard work and effort on the part of our students and staff,” she said. “We are proud that this data represents a bounce back from challenging pandemic years.”

The school district reviews assessment scores every month with principals to discuss trends in student learning. The principals and the school district then evaluate those trends to see what classroom initiatives are returning the best results.

Connell said the school district also uses assessment results to examine the curriculum. He said the numbers are a measurement of how well instruction is received by students. Through analyzing the data, the school district can evaluate how to enhance curriculum in the classroom.

“We go through a process of analysis, looking for emerging trends and developing root causes, and then coming up with strategies and actions to say, what do we need to refine in our practice, in our curriculum resource and across our program?” he said.

For students struggling in certain fields, 9-R schools offer intervention programs. Connell said it is an alternative practice to help struggling students comprehend a subject better. Examples would be using music or visual forms of teaching.

“It’s about finding out what the student needs that they didn’t get in the regular instruction,” Connell said.

Durango School District will be implementing new programs in math and reading next school year for elementary school students. Students will learn math in a more project-based setting that is supposed to promote reasoning and thinking. Connell said programs involve doing math through storylines, such as simulating barn life by figuring out how many chickens can fit in a coop.

“It’s just very real-world types of interactions and stories that they’re working through. And while at the same time, really digging deeply into the math,” he said.

9-R will also be implementing its “Science of Reading” program next school year. That involves students going through a step-by-step process to ensure they recognize how letters and sounds are put together to build words.

Connell said the Science of Reading is a way to guarantee students develop a strong foundation in literacy as they start to understand deep text.

tbrown@durangoherald.com

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