Rising to expectations

School district hopes to improve test scores, help schools meet state expectations

While Sweetwater County School District No. 2 remains mostly above the state average in standardized testing results, a few lower-than-expected results have the district looking for solutions for future improvement. 

Superintendent Craig Barringer spoke to the School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday night to go over the WY-TOPP and ACT test results for schools in the district. The state's testing system, the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress (WY-TOPP), tests students' proficiency in English language arts (ELA), mathematics, and science.

From the beginning of his presentation, Barringer noted that some of the results are not typical of the district, but that work is already being done to address the areas of concern. 

"It's not a teacher issue when you look at those scores, it's a system issue, and I think we're fixing that system," Barringer told the board. 

The biggest areas of concern were in the Wyoming Department of Education's Performance Report for individual schools and the WY-TOPP results for ELA. 

The WDE regularly assesses schools throughout the state to see whether they are meeting expectations. In the past few years, most schools in the district were meeting or exceeding expectations. This year, Harrison Elementary and Lincoln Middle School were found to only be partially meeting expectations, and Monroe Elementary and Truman Elementary were reported as not meeting expectations. 

Barringer explained that lots of factors go into whether or not a school meets expectations, and the schools that didn't meet expectations or only partially met them are already working to address the issue, including filling out an improvement plan. 

The other area where district schools fell below expectations was in the WY-TOPP results for English Language Arts, specifically seeing a drop below the state average in the third and fourth grades. This is the first time these results have been below the state average in a long time, according to Barringer, and the problem was across the board for schools. 

After seeing these results, Barringer said meetings were held with school principals to address the issue. 

"They were very quick to point out what we needed to do differently," he said. 

Action was taken right away, including providing "Step Up to Writing" training, bringing in someone to do updated training on LLI (Leveled Literacy Intervention), and piloting two new phonics programs in primary grades in the district. 

"I wouldn't say we were caught off guard by the scores for third and fourth grade, but we should have done something sooner," Barringer admitted. 

Other actions are also being taken to ensure the district continues to move forward in a positive direction, according to Barringer, including increasing communication with stakeholders and community members on both academic and non-academic successes and challenges, working on proficiency scales to match state standards, and supporting district staff through professional development. 

While several board members admitted they were disappointed by the results, both they and Barringer noted that there are still many positive things happening in the district. 

Barringer shared that the attendance rate in the district is improving after being negatively affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic, having risen from 88.53% in the 21-22 school year to 90.51% in the 22-23 school year. 

The school district also tested above the state average overall in all three WY-TOPP categories of ELA, Math and Science. 

The ACT Test results for the district were also largely positive and showed improvement for the district. 

"The ACT Test was probably our bright spot," Barringer said. He explained that the district was behind the state average for the ACT a few years ago, but now "for the second year in a row, we are above the state average."

Green River High School in particular has seen improvement in the ACT composite score for the past two years, going from 17.9 to 18.5 to 19.8. 

Overall, Barringer was encouraged by the positive things happening in the district and confident that the other areas will see improvement. 

"There's a lot of good things going on," Barringer said. "The test scores are one part of the measure of success, but there's some other measures of success too."


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