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Hybrid mode seen as hurting achievement
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Hybrid mode seen as hurting achievement

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Student growth seemed to lag over the three months the Council Bluffs Community School District operated in hybrid mode last fall. About 1,500 students enrolled in the Virtual Academy at the beginning of the school year and pursued remote learning.

Between fall and winter testing with the Measures of Academic Progress math assessment, K-11 students scoring in the average, high average or high ranges increased by only 0.25% to about 58%, Chief Academic Officer Corey Vorthmann said during a presentation to the school board Tuesday.

Vorthmann called this the “COVID-19 yo-yo effect.”

The school district had set a goal of having 80% of students score in the average, high average or high levels — the top three for MAP tests — in math and reading by 2021.

Results from the winter 2021 administration of the MAP math test show that elementary and middle school students who attended on site did slightly better than virtual academy students. Among on-site elementary students, 55% scored in the average, high average or high range, while about 52% of virtual elementary students scored in the top three bands.

“While virtual is something we want to have available to parents, we know that in-person is our best instruction,” Vorthmann said.

Among middle-schoolers, just over 50% of on-site students scored average, high average or high, and slightly less than 50% of virtual students attained one of the top three ranges, according to a chart he displayed.

Among high school students, results were almost identical. About 62% of virtual students scored in the average, high average or high ranges, and on-site students did just a hair better.

Kindergarten performed the best, with about 74% reaching the top three levels, the chart showed. High school sophomores and juniors also did well, with about 65% attaining the top three levels.

Of greatest concern were the second and third grades, where the percentages of students scoring in the three highest bands were only 42 and 48, respectively.

A comparison of fall 2020 and winter 2021 math scores shows that some grades actually lost ground, falling short of the district goal of having 100% of students demonstrate growth by 2021. Among second-graders, about 5% fewer reached one of the top three bands. The percentage achieving at those levels in seventh, eighth and ninth grades decreased by 2%, 4.9% and 2%, respectively, and in 10th grade it declined by a fraction of a percent.

The drop by some grades was partly because of the “interrupted” instruction of the hybrid phase, Vorthmann said.

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“That did have an impact on achievement,” he said.

Third and fifth grades showed the most improvement in math, with the number of students scoring in the top three bands increasing by 7% and 7.5%, respectively, a chart showed. High school juniors had about 2% more students joining those in the three upper levels, and the remaining grades had 1% or less.

Fifth-graders did the best at reaching their individual growth targets in math from fall 2020 to winter 2021, with 69% achieving that goal. Averages in other grades ranged from 50% of second- and sixth-graders to 60% of third-graders. The district had set a goal of having 60% of students reach their individual growth targets by 2021.

In reading, K-11 students scoring at the average, high average or high levels decreased by 0.49% from fall 2020 to winter 2021 to an average of about 61%, Vorthmann said, again falling short of the district goal of 80%.

Winter MAP scores in reading show that, once again, kindergarten classes had the highest percentage of students in the average, high average and high categories, with a total of about 76%. Among 10th and 11th-graders, 70% attained those levels. The percentage in other grades ranged from 50% for second grade to 68% for ninth grade. First grade had only slightly more students than second in the upper three ranges at 51%.

That was in spite of second grade showing the most growth from fall 2020 to winter 2021, with the share achieving in the top three levels increasing by about 7%, a chart showed. Other grades with more students joining the top three bands were 11th grade, 3.7%; third grade, about 3%; and fifth grade, about 2%.

Grades with the share of students at the top three levels dropping from fall 2020 to winter 2021 in reading included kindergarten, down about 4%; sixth grade, down 3.9%; seventh grade, down 3.75%; first grade, down 2.75%; eighth grade, 2%; and fourth grade, about 0.1%. The district goal for reading was also for 100% of students to show some growth.

In reading, elementary and middle school students receiving virtual instruction actually did a little better than those who attended on site, with 63% to 64% of virtual students scoring in the average, high average or high ranges and 60% of on-site students attaining those levels, a chart showed. Among high school students, 70% of on-site students reached the top three levels, while virtual students were about 1% behind them.

Students reaching their individual growth targets averaged from 43% in sixth grade to 59% in second grade, which fell just short of the district goal of 60%.

This winter, students in grades 6-11 took the MAP science test for the first time. District-wide, 62% of students scored in the average, high average or high ranges.

“In almost every grade, we are already performing over 60% proficient,” Vorthmann said.

The only exception was sixth grade, which missed the 60% mark by just a sliver.

Vorthmann reiterated his point about the hybrid mode after his presentation.

“The interrupted instruction certainly did impact achievement for us,” he said. “That face-to-face instruction is irreplaceable.”

Teachers need to accelerate instruction so students can catch up, Vorthmann said. Summer school will be designed to help students in key subject areas, he said.

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