By JOHN HOWELL
So you don’t know Plory?
You’re not the only one, but Plory has played a role in a dramatic reversal in elementary proficiency scores as this academic year comes to a …
By JOHN HOWELL
So you don’t know Plory?
You’re not the only one, but Plory has played a role in a dramatic reversal in elementary proficiency scores as this academic year comes to a close. Plory is a familiar and trusted character to elementary students. She is a celebrity. All the kids know Plory.
That surely was the case as the iReady mascot toured Warwick elementary schools before summer vacation. Plory didn’t say anything, not as much as a squeak. Plory gave high fives, did a little dancing and did a lot of posing for photographs. It was a celebration of student achievement.
Plory – a cheerleader of learning – puts a smile on all those numbers and complicated systems that young minds encounter when it comes to math.
Of course, as Lisa Schultz, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, and RTI, will say, cartoon characters are no more than a teaching tool. She credits the iReady program, what it allowed teachers to do and how it adjusts to student abilities and pushes them to reach for the next level.
Last week Schultz released spring proficiency test results for Warwick schools K through 8.
In the fall 1,746 students out of 5,185 assessed, or 34 percent were on or above grade level in reading while an even greater number, 1,955 students or 38 percent, were one grade below their level. Following the recent assessments 3,211 or 59 percent were at their grade level or above for an increase of 25 percent. The cohort of students one grade below proficiency level dropped to24 percent. At the bottom of the scale those students in the three or more grade levels below proficiency dropped from 14 to 9 percent.
“This year they crushed it. They really worked hard,” said Dawn Manchester, curriculum technology coordinator.
Shultz attributes much of the reversal in the downward spiral in proficiency scores to the return of in-person teaching as well as the extended day programs initiated to target students demonstrating difficulty keeping up with their peers. She doesn’t see such growth in proficiency as being sustainable although the results are highly rewarding and a reflection of the efforts made by teachers.
“You would never know covid was here,” she said of the rebound of scores. In fact, the results are better than pre-covid days. “We’re putting Warwick back on top,” she said.
The results were hardly news to Mayor Frank Picozzi. He said that pretty much every school meeting he attends administrators are crowing about it.
The results being reported include middle school students who work with My Path, which is an iReady program. Middle school student performance is included in the numbers reported and – when broken out – track the same levels of escalation of elementary students.
What disappoints Schultz are the STAR screening reports for high school students that are basically unchanged since students returned to in-person learning. She questions the accuracy of the numbers and is seeking to get them verified. She believes many high school students don’t take the STAR screening seriously and are not prepared whereas they will apply themselves to the PSATS and SATS.
“You don’t see any growth. I don’t see how they are accurate,” she said of the STAR screening.
Superintendent Lynn Dambruch agrees.
“STAR is not aligned to our standards, it’s not a good forecaster,” she said. Dambruch added, “some students take it seriously and others don’t. It doesn’t impact them at all.”
While the faculty emphasizes the importance of the assessment test, it has little bearing on individual student evaluations. Students know that and check off answers without even reading the questions. That surely isn’t the case for math in K-8.
Dambruch said STAR is the only assessment tool the department could find.
When it comes to the K-8 results, Dambruch credits teachers with diving in when students returned to in-person classes. “They did a phenomenal job,” she said. Dambruch finds iReady, which the department started using in 2019 a good resource. She noted that it took time for teachers to become familiar with program features and not all that long after they did covid hit and the department transitioned to online classes.
“It was a rough launch,” she said. Now, however, with a full academic year of in-person classes results are showing the effectiveness of the program and its My Path feature. My Path enables teachers to tailor computer lessons to a student’s ability, so, for example if they are proficient in reading they are given progressively challenging assignments. The same student, however, may be having difficulty with math in which case the material doesn’t progress as rapidly and the teacher can identify concepts they need to focus on.
Schultz said iReady keeps students engaged and challenges them to perform at a higher level – gets them to stretch. It enables teachers to identify problem areas and because students are working, affords teachers the opportunity to work individually with students without leaving the rest of the class waiting.
According to the assessment, proficiency in math leapfrogged. In the fall assessment, only 15 percent of students were at or above grade level. That jumped to 52 percent in the spring assessment, putting math on nearly a par with reading. The one level below proficiency cohort dropped from 52 percent of the students to 33 percent.
“The core instruction got to be face-to-face this year,” said Manchester. In addition, she said, “masked came off, too.”
To compare Warwick’s performance with other districts, Manchester looked at national data provided by iReady. She found Warwick “is really in alignment with Rhode Island and national norms.”
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