Amidst national media coverage for one of the most hotly contested school board elections in history, Jefferson County Public Schools turned out some positive news last week to the families of its 85,000 students.
Results from the first Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing show math scores in the district are above the national norms, a sign things are improving, those close to the district say.
All grade levels scored at or above 40 percent in the top two categories (grades three through 10 are tested). Forty percent is the national norm. In grades eight and nine the news was even better, where 53 and 51 percent (respectively) tested either high or high average.
Also trending the right direction, superintendent Dan McMinimee said, is that fewer students scored in the lower two categories – low and low average – than the national norm of 40 percent.
“While Jeffco Public Schools will not be satisfied until all students are career and college ready, this news is encouraging,” McMinimee said.
This is the first year the district has implemented MAP testing, an online test that is given three times a year to provide teachers with immediate information on how well their students are performing. It is also administered in English and, for some grades, in science.
The testing is different from many other assessments in that it is adaptively tailored to individual students, providing questions to each student based on how well that student answered a previous question. As students answer the questions correctly, they get more difficult.
Students and teachers get results immediately, and teachers get classroom results the next day—compared to the state’s annual standardized tests, Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
Additionally, MAP requires only half the time to take compared with the district’s previously used options.
Board member Jill Fellman said the news was exciting, adding she hopes the trend will continue after the first of the year when the students will take the test again and get an idea of growth.
“This is great news,” Fellman said. “We need to be cautiously optimistic. Since this is the first year of MAP testing, we will need to have at least one more data point to say the scores are indeed indicative of growth.”
Fellman, who did not run for re-election this year and at times has been critical of the reform members currently up for recall, stopped short of crediting reforms made in the district. She believes it will take three to five years before the full results will be seen, but added that these initial results still deserve recognition.
“The celebration here is one of the outstanding teaching that has been going on in our classrooms over the last several years,” Fellman said.
Also cause for celebration, McMinimee said in his newsletter to parents, is a 92 percent completion rate for the Individual Career Academic Plan (ICAP) available to students in grades seven through 12. According to the Colorado Department of Education, ICAP is “a multi-year process that intentionally guides students and families in the exploration of career, academic and postsecondary opportunities.”
“We continue to celebrate the commitment of our staff and students to building bright futures,” he said.
Finally, McMinimee announced that things look bright outside the classroom, too.
The district received word that all red flags assigned from the state on the district’s financial statement were removed during the last reporting period.
Expenditures were $10 million under budget, and the district was able to dedicate an additional $20.3 million to capital reserves.
“Jeffco Public Schools is grateful for community partners … who dedicated time and resources to making our schools places where students thrive and our community blossoms,” McMinimee said.