In the Wyoming Department of Education’s latest accountability scores for Albany County School District No. 1, four of the district’s 15 schools were ranked for the 2018-2019 school year as “exceeding expectations” — the highest score assigned by the state agency.
Under the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act of 2013, all elementary, middle and high schools receive one of four performance rating: Exceeding expectations, meeting expectations, partially meeting expectations, or not meeting expectations.
The scores are determined by weighing four factors: post-secondary readiness, English learners’ progress toward fluency, and students scores on the WY-TOPP and ACT tests — including assessing individual students’ improvement from previous years’ test scores.
For the 2017-2018 year, ACSD No. 1 had only two schools with a score of exceeding expectations: Spring Creek Elementary and the UW Lab School.
This year, Spring Creek continued to receive an “exceeding expectations” score, while Linford Elementary, Slade Elementary and Harmony Elementary joined in on earning a top score.
Slade had among the most improved WY-TOPP scores of any school in the state, but the exceeding expectations score was an even greater accomplishment for Linford, which had been rated as “partially meeting expectations” for the previous three years.
“I am thrilled that Linford is where it is,” Superintendent Jubal Yennie told the Laramie Boomerang. “Never before in the history of the (No Child Left Behind Act) or the (Every Student Succeeds Act) has Linford met or exceeded expectations, so this is a real feather in the cap for that staff and community.”
The huge turnaround for Linford, Yennie said, is also “reflective of what we’re doing in the district as a whole.”
Now, when school scores are subpar, district staff focus on finding particular deficiencies in the data.
From that, teachers work together, often through Professional Learning Communities, to focus on what administrators call “short cycles” — short-term targeting through instruction and testing of subject matter where students might have fallen behind.
Last year, ACSD No. 1 had 10 of its 15 schools scored as either meeting or exceeding expectations.
This year, WDE has given that designation to nine of the district’s 15 scored schools.
With its 2018-2019 score of “meeting expectations,” Laramie High School broke a two-year streak in which it was scored as just “partially meeting expectations” the prior two years.
Conversely, Laramie Middle School’s score saw a downturn this year. LMS was ranked as meeting expectations for three straight years until it was designated as partially meeting expectations this year.
While WDE said LMS’s overall test scores were acceptable when judged by state standards, the individual students’ test scores weren’t as high as they should have been — when compared to those same students’ WY-TOPP scores from the previous year.
When a school doesn’t see the expected growth, Yennie said administrators often find it means there’s material on a WY-TOPP test that wasn’t being covered for some reason.
For example, after Laramie High School received a “partially meeting expectations” score in 2017-2018, administrators dug into the data and discovered there was a portion of WY-TOPP’s geometry test that wasn’t being covered in the school.
“Sometimes the mapping is just off,” said Assistant Superintendent Debbie Fisher said. “Sometimes there’s something we’re teaching in March or April and it’s not giving the students enough time to digest the material, and then we just need to teach it earlier.”
WDE also docked LMS this year for having inequitable test scores, meaning that students with poor WY-TOPP scores also didn’t make as much improvement as the state agency would like.
“With inequity, what we’re finding more often than not,” Yennie said, “is that those students fall behind if they’re not being introduced to the regular curriculum because they’re being taken out of the classroom.”
Students who have special needs that remove them from regular classroom instruction for more than 20% of the day, Yennie said, can face problems with keeping up with the standard curriculum.
Hoping to combat that problem, administrators will look to to limit out-of-classroom work while also providing enough balance to make sure students with Individual Education Plans are getting all the extra resources they need.
“That’s the balance. That’s the challenge,” Yennie said.
Only one school in ACSD No. 1 was ranked as “not meeting expectations” this past year: Laramie Montessori Charter School.
The charter school had also received the state’s lowest accountability score in two of the three previous academic years.
As with 2017-2018, Snowy Range Academy and Beitel Elementary both earned scores of meeting expectations this year.
Rock River Elementary’s score dropped from meeting expectations to partially meeting expectations. Rock River Junior High School’s score rose from not meeting expectations to meeting expectations, while Rock River High School’s score stayed flat at partially meeting expectations.
For the first time this year, alternative schools were scored. However, that scoring system uses a few added metrics which, unlike with traditional schools, also grade alternative schools on the existence of “student success plans” and the results of student climate surveys.
In its inaugural accountability grade from WDE, Laramie’s Whiting High School was given a grade of “partially meeting alternative school expectations.”
ACSD No. 1’s five-year strategic plan calls for all district schools to be meeting or exceeding expectations by 2022.
Yennie said charter schools are not included in that goal.
Laramie’s Montessori school has scored as having not met expectations for three of the last four years.
“I don’t have oversight on their day-to-day work, but the school board obviously has oversight of their charter,” Yennie said. “There are some resources we have that we can help Montessori get to where they need to be.”
The scores given for individual students in ACSD No. 1 far outpaced their statewide peers.
While 18.4% of statewide students were deemed in 2017-2018 to be not meeting expectations, only 2% of ACSD No. 1 students were assigned that score.
As in 2017-2018, Snowy Range Academy had a higher proficiency rate on its WY-TOPP scores than any other school in the state.