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Durango School District reports poor test results

Fears of academic slide during COVID-19 pandemic borne out in standardized tests
Results on standardized tests showed a widespread decrease in academic performance among students in Durango School District 9-R schools.

Standardized tests for students in Durango School District 9-R show widespread decreases among all groups.

The end of school year 2021 results confirm fears by district leaders, and educational experts across the country, that remote, at-home learning cannot replace in-person, in-class learning with a teacher present.

While the slide in performance was seen across all demographics, it was particularly pronounced among students who are economically disadvantaged and among minority students.

“It’s hard to reflect on this data without having concerns,” said Dylan Connell, 9-R’s director of instruction and professional development, when he presented results to the school board this week.

Results of tests show 61% of 9-R students are reading at least one grade level below their current grade level.

In math, 68% of 9-R students are performing at least one grade level below their current grade.

Connell said results show concerns about the effectiveness of remote learning were borne out.

“The obvious narrative of the year is shown in the data,” he said.

Based on the iReady reading and math tests given to kindergartners to sixth graders, proficiency in the subjects was highest among kindergartners, but it dropped among older students.

In kindergarten, 66% of students who took the test were reading proficiently and 67% were proficient in math.

In sixth grade, only 30% of test-takers were proficient in reading and only 13% were proficient in math.

“When I saw the results, I teared up,” said school board member Mick Souder. “The results were literally painful.”

Minority and economically disadvantaged students also underperformed.

For example, according to the Star Reading assessment for students at Durango High School at the beginning of the year, 45% of Native American students required urgent intervention.

The reading results for Native American students did improve as the year went on.

At the end of the year, the percentage of Native American students listed as requiring urgent intervention to improve reading was at 29%.

For Hispanics, at the beginning of the year, 18% required urgent intervention, and at the end of the year, 20% required urgent intervention.

Among white students who took the test, at the beginning of the year, 11% required urgent intervention and 8% required urgent intervention at the end of the year.

In his presentation to the school board, Connell said the district is “consistently underserving” students with an individualized education plan, English language learners and minority students.

School board member Andrea Parmenter said, “It’s sad. It’s a little disheartening, and the same group of students who were underperforming are still underperforming.”

Connell said 9-R began taking steps to reverse the slides beginning in the middle of the school year and those efforts will intensify.

The district’s leadership has begun efforts to be more culturally competent in teaching minority students. The first step in the process is a shared reading of the book “Opening Doors: An Implementation Template for Cultural Proficiency” by Trudy T. Arriaga and Randall B. Lindsey.

It also has begun tightening classroom instruction to ensure lessons align with state standards.

It is also boosting professional development.

In addition, the district’s Principal Professional Learning Community will meet regularly to analyze data down to the student level to make data-based decisions to enhance learning for each student.

“I think we’re going to have to hold our poor new superintendent’s feet to the fire right away,” Souder said. “We’re going to have to show were getting results. We owe it to our stakeholders.”

parmijo@durangoherald.com

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