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Fall test scores mixed at Council Bluffs Schools
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Fall test scores mixed at Council Bluffs Schools

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Students flow out of the renovated Wilson Middle School following the first day back to classes for the Council Bluffs Community School District on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021.

Results from this fall’s administration of the Measures of Academic Progress assessment in the Council Bluffs Community School District showed that the percentage of students scoring in the average, high average or high ranges improved slightly from fall 2020, while the percentage of students doing so in reading fell by 2.4%, according to information presented to the Board of Education Tuesday by Chief Academic Officer Corey Vorthmann.

District goals regarding the MAP tests include the following:

By 2024, 80% of students will score in the average, high average or high band on MAP math and reading tests.

By 2024, 60% of students will achieve individual growth targets on MAP math and reading tests.

By 2024, 100% of students will demonstrate growth as measured by the MAP in math and reading.

From fall 2020 to fall 2021, the percentage of students in K-11 scoring average, high average or high on the MAP mathematics test increased by 0.69%, Vorthmann said. The test is normally given in the fall, winter and spring every year.

“There was no test that was administered in spring of 2020,” he said.

Vorthmann displayed a chart of student math performance by grade level that showed that, this fall, most grades had a higher percentage that scored in the average, high average or high bands than they did in fall 2020. Exceptions were fourth, fifth and sixth grades.

When it came to meeting individual growth targets, the percentage of students who have succeeded has risen as students have gone through elementary school and tapered off in middle and high school, a chart showed.

As far as students making any growth, the percentage was highest for students in first through fifth grades, with more than 90% of students in each of those grades showing growth. About 80% of the students in sixth and seventh grades showed growth, about 75% did in eighth grade, 60% did in ninth grade and 53% to 55% of students in 10th and 11th grades achieved growth.

The period since the COVID-19 outbreak began in spring 2020 has been unlike any other, Vorthmann said. The district began administering the MAP in spring 2018, and officials saw “rapid improvement” before the pandemic.

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On the MAP reading test, the percentage of students in K-11 scoring average, high average or high in reading this fall fell by 2.4% from the fall 2020 level, Vorthmann said.

“We are still searching for normal,” he said. “We are still seeing some stagnation.”

A chart showing the percentage in each grade who scored in the average, high average or high range indicates that the biggest dips were seen in third and fourth grades — partly because they were higher in those grades in fall 2020. In other grades, the percentage stayed about the same, and improvement was seen in middle and high school.

Still, the percentage of students meeting their individual growth targets was highest in third, fourth and fifth grades. The percentage of students making some growth was again highest in elementary school and tapered off in middle and high school.

Improvement was seen on the MAP reading test before the pandemic, Vorthmann said. A chart outlined growth from about 56% of district students scoring in the top three bands in spring 2018 to 62% in winter 2020. There was no test in spring 2020, but it looked like students picked up in fall 2020 at 62% — about where they left off in winter 2020 — then slid to about 59% in spring 2021. There was a slight uptick to 60% this fall.

Participation and attendance affect the averages dramatically, Vorthmann said.

“Testing participation at the high school level is the lowest in our district,” he said. “Participation in elementary is wonderful.”

Officials have found a correlation between attendance and test scores, Vorthmann said.

“One thing that has really been driven home to us is that attendance matters,” he said. “The one thing that matters more than anything else is attendance. The difference in achievement in high school students who are chronically absent and those who are not chronically absent is night and day.”

In order to stay on track to earn a high school diploma and another credential by graduation, students are advised to attend school on at least 95% of the school days, achieve a C or better (in math and English language arts) and demonstrate proficiency in math and language arts on the MAP test, Vorthmann said.

It is important for teachers to be true to district curriculum, he said.

The district will try to address other factors affecting achievement also, Vorthmann said. Steps will include providing extra help where needed, emphasizing being on track to earn a diploma plus one other credential and increasing social-emotional support for struggling students.

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