A snapshot of Creston fourth-grade reading scores made its way into the Des Moines Register Sunday, stating 54.55 percent of students were proficient in reading during the 2011-2012 school year.
Since then, proficiency increased more than 15 percent. And, those fourth-grade students who are now in fifth grade increased their reading proficiency to 61 percent.
“One thing we want people to realize,” said Chuck Scott, Creston School District interim superintendent, “it’s last year’s news.”
When ranked, Creston tied for 330th place, along with Farragut, Clarksville and Laurents-Marathon. Creston was in the bottom 10 districts in the state of Iowa.
The proficiency percentage comes from a list compiled by the Des Moines Register that included other towns across the state of Iowa.
The data comes from students who were enrolled in the fourth grade and how many took the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) during 2011-2012 school year. There were 94 students enrolled in fourth-grade in Creston, and all students took the assessment.
“What’s discouraging for us ... is we never get the results back,” said Scott.
Based on the NAEP, 54.55 percent of the 94 students were reading at the fourth-grade level. This is comparable to other school districts, such as Des Moines Independent at 58.33 percent, East Greene at 52.94 percent and Ottumwa at 55.67 percent.
“The community should not accept that from us,” Scott said. “You can quote me on that. That’s unacceptable.”
Data also shows that as a whole, 58.7 percent of the fourth-graders who took the test are part of the free and reduced lunch program, and 20 percent of the students are in the special education program. Generally, students in these programs are less likely to score well on curriculum assessments.
“We have to report all the subgroups, whereas smaller districts who don’t have at least 40 kids in that subgroup, they don’t have to report those scores,” said Tina Morrison, Creston Elementary School Title 1 reading instructor.
Morrison wasn’t the only one to express frustration from the data.
“When you have a bigger pool of special ed students, you’re obviously going to get a lower score,” said Hannah Henrichs, Creston Elementary School special education instructor. “And so, you always have to take that into effect, and when that gets printed into a newspaper, no one understands that.”
However, since the results of the NAEP, fourth-grade reading scores have increased dramatically, according to the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), Iowa Test of Educational Development (ITED) and Iowa Assessment results.
During the February Creston School Board meeting, Creston reading teachers presented reading scores that compared 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years for fourth- through eleventh-grade students.
In one school year, fourth-graders improved their reading scores from 55.3 percent proficient to 73.6 percent.
However, the gap in reading proficiency in one year is because the class was different. Data represents that the current fourth-graders that tested at 73.6 percent proficient have approximately 8 to 10 percent special education students.
This data represents scores from ITBS, ITED and Iowa Assessment exams.
“This year’s data, I think, is an indication that we have turned the corner on lower student achievement scores,” said Scott.
The data compiled from the NAEP results gives proficiency percentages for each town in Iowa, except towns with small numbers of fourth-grade students, such as Clearfield, Diagonal, Orient-Macksburg and Prescott.
“ITBS and stuff comes out of Iowa City,” said Scott. “NAEP is a national assessment.”
Scott said NAEP is at a higher difficulty level than Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), Iowa Test of Educational Development (ITED) or Iowa Assessment, three other tests used in Iowa.
Currently, Iowa uses Iowa Assessment exams to test students’ educational proficiencies.
“We taught what we thought was important,” said Scott. “Right now, our curriculum is aligned with what is taught in Iowa.”
“It’s unfortunate that this has been brought to everyone’s attention because this class, now in fifth grade, scored at the 41st percentile in third grade, 54th in fourth grade and this year, they scored 61 percent proficient,” said Creston Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Trisha Calvin. “So, even though it’s still not good enough, they are showing growth and making gains.”
Many fourth-grade teachers and Title 1 teachers met with the Creston News Advertiser to discuss what they’re doing to help improve children’s reading proficiency. Some things Creston School District is doing are junior kindergarten, monthly reading tip sheets for parents, reading and math literacy nights, READS program for first-graders, reading buddies and book swaps. The school also devotes 120 minutes a day to reading in every class.
“Professional educators need to use data a lot more than we do to make decisions,” Scott said. “How do I know how well the students are doing if I don’t take a snapshot every once in a while?”
Creston District has measures of academic progress (MAP) assessments that students take three times a year. MAP assessments look into student progress in the areas of science, reading and math.
“That’s an effort to look at student progress more frequently,” said Scott. “By looking at exams and types of questions missed, you take the guesswork out.”