A year after state assessment scores slipped, Marion High School posted its best year in state math and reading testing since No Child Left Behind was implemented in 2002, as well as the school’s biggest improvement in math scores in that time.
The school had 96.7 percent of students meet or exceed standards on the state math assessment and 95.1 percent meet or exceed standards on the state reading assessment. The previous year’s results were 82.3 percent in math and 82.1 in reading.
MHS Principal Tod Gordon said during the intervening year, the school identified specific content areas that many students struggled in for extra instruction in general classrooms and provided additional individualized support for select students.
For example, by looking at past results, the school targeted four areas in the reading test for improvement: determining word meanings by looking at root words, prefixes, and suffixes; comparing and contrasting in texts; paraphrasing and summarizing information; and identifying an author’s position in a persuasive text and reasons for supporting that position.
All four of those subjects saw substantial improvement from 2011 to 2012. The biggest improvement was in paraphrasing and summarizing information, improving from 68.4 percent meeting or exceeding standards in 2011 to 93.9 percent meeting or exceeding standards in 2012.
Students who particularly struggled on 2011 assessments were placed in small-group classes with lesson plans tailored to help in the specific areas the students struggled most in, Gordon said. The extra work started with motivation, he said, convincing the students that they could succeed if they worked on it.
By the time the 2012 assessments came around, those students’ ability and confidence were greatly improved, Gordon said.
“A student said, ‘I’m not too concerned about it, because I finally learned the material,’” Gordon said.
The students in those supplementary math and reading classes were actually eager to know their test results as soon as they came back.
The results were building-wide Standard of Excellence awards in math and reading, as well as in science. Marion Middle and Elementary schools also earned building-wide Standard of Excellence in all three subjects.
Of course, improving education is a constant goal, and while Marion schools celebrate the success of the latest assessment results, they are also preparing for an entirely new set of standards coming in just a couple of years, the Common Core Standards, and principals and teachers will have to retool their approach again.