Each year the Wyoming Department of education measures growth, equity, achievement and participation in every school in every district in the state.
This year, it’s good news yet again for Teton County School District No. 1. Every school was categorized as meeting or exceeding expectations based on a compilation of those four indicators.
“We’re happy about that,” Superintendent Gillian Chapman said.
Alta Elementary and Kelly Elementary, with enrollments of 48 and 46 students, earned the top overall school performance marks in the district.
Schools are assessed on a spectrum of expectations: not meeting, partially meeting, meeting or exceeding expectations. Schools that don’t meet expectations have unacceptable performance on all indicators, with improvement considered “urgent,” while schools that exceed expectations are considered “models of performance” by the state.
“The state requires that we focus on these areas to ensure that all students, no matter their age, their ethnicity or the subject areas they are tested in, have an equitable opportunity to access our curriculum and to have success on our standards,” Chapman said.
The state is looking to make sure there isn’t a significant gap between minority groups, students learning English and students who are receiving free or reduced lunches and other students who don’t have those barriers, Chapman said.
“They’re looking to make sure that the teachers and the school are actually helping kids grow,” she added.
Valley public schools tend to do well year after year, so huge jumps in measurements are relatively rare. It’s more about maintaining the mark of meeting or exceeding standards. But a handful of schools across the state managed to grow two measures, something Chapman said was something to celebrate.
“It’s great to celebrate achievement, it’s great to celebrate the opportunity gap closing, and it’s also great to see that all of our kids have access to high, challenging standards taught by the best teachers that are out there,” Chapman said.
That doesn’t mean that schools within the district don’t have areas they need to improve.
For the first time ever, Jackson Hole High School is below the state target in equity. That’s where the lowest-performing students are put into a subgroup and their achievements are monitored year to year to see if the students who need the most help have equitable opportunities to learn.
“Equity is a top concern for all of our staff,” Chapman said. “Administrators and teachers are focusing on that as their No. 1 priority.”
Chapman said that focusing on students learning English might be a way to improve the marks in the future.
“We are helping students learn English, and we know that it takes seven years for students to gain proficiency in English in order to be successful on a standardized test,” she said. “Some of our students, we just haven’t had them for seven years yet. It’s a targeted effort to ensure success for all.”
Colter Elementary School and Jackson Elementary School also scored below the state target in equity. Wilson Elementary School scored below state targets in growth as well.
When it comes to the Colter and Jackson scores, Chapman said reconfiguration — making each school for kindergarten through fifth grade, not kindergarten through second grade and third through fifth grade — should help.
“It’s important that we are all on the same page,” she said.
When teachers of a larger grade span are in the same building, more collaboration can occur, something Chapman called vertical planning.
Reducing the number of student transitions should also help, Chapman said.
“For kids that are at risk for any reason, the fewer number of transitions you can put in place, the better it is for our most vulnerable kids,” she said. “The longer we can have a student in one building to develop the relationship between student, staff and family, the better academically it will be for our students.”
Each principal is working with his or her building teams to parse the data and determine performance goals for the year. In October they will present school improvement plans to the school board.