Bayfield School District shocked by low standardized test scores

Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015 1:20 PM

BAYFIELD – Everyone was prepared to see lower scores for the new statewide assessment tests for math and language arts, but the Bayfield School District was shocked by its results.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests the foundation skills students need as they head to higher education or enter the workforce. The recently released results are from tests students took in March.

“It’s the first time we embarked on measuring the new standards,” Bayfield Superintendent Troy Zabel said. “The results were kind of a shock. We’re below the state average in a lot of areas, and as a high-performing district, we’re highly disappointed.”

In the English and language arts section of the PARCC tests, 28 percent of Bayfield’s third-graders met or exceeded the standards, compared with a 39 percent average at the state level. Fifth-, sixth-, ninth- and 11th-graders all performed below the state average, fourth- and 10th-graders hit the mark and seventh- and eighth-graders scored just above it.

Bayfield did better on math. High school students in Algebra II and Geometry, along with seventh- and eighth-graders, all surpassed the state average, with the seventh-graders and high school geometry students outperforming their state counterparts’ averages by more than 9 percentage points.

The lower grades didn’t do as well, with third- through seventh-graders all scoring below-average. Fifth- and seventh-graders particularly struggled, coming in 12 and 11 percentage points below the state average respectively.

“We’re taking these results seriously,” Zabel said, “and asking ‘Why are our students faltering?’ ‘What is the disconnect?’ We’re not excuse-making, we own the results.”

Everyone in the district, including administrators, staff and teachers, he said, is analyzing everything they do to see how they can do it better.

“We’re working on uniformly improving planning, assessing curriculum and looking at remediation,” Zabel said. “On other interim assessments, we’re seeing a lot of growth. For PARCC, since this is the first year, it gives us a baseline to work from, but it won’t be until next year that we’ll see how we’re improving.”

Bayfield is drilling down on the numbers to get more specific information, he said. While Durango School District 9-R required all students to take the online test, Bayfield offered the option of pencil and paper. The top student performer in Bayfield chose the pencil-and-paper option.

“We didn’t do a good job preparing students for digital testing,” Zabel said. “So there are probably disconnects there as well as in our delivery systems and instructional applications.”

PARCC doesn’t measure all of the good things happening in Bayfield’s classrooms, Zabel said. Another assessment measure, the ACT test for graduating seniors, showed Bayfield students averaged almost a full point above the state average.

“The Bayfield community has deeply held values,” he said. “That’s why we offer K-12 Spanish, K-12 music and K-12 art. We want our community to know that while the results matter, they’re not the only thing that matters. ”

The 2016 PARCC test will be given in April, one month later than the 2015 test, giving students additional learning time. It will also take about half the time, down from nine to 15 hours depending on grade level.