Scores show improvement

September 27, 2018

LAUGHLIN — Clark County School District recently reported an increase in the SMARTER Balanced test scores for grades three through eight and Laughlin is no different.

The test results were released Sept. 14. Parents, guardians and others can visit nevadareportcard.com to see additional details and other test results.

“We saw increases at all levels,” when comparing the 2016-2017 academic year to 2017-18, said principal Dawn Estes.

Some of the notable increases include a 14.1 percent increase in third grade math proficiency in Laughlin versus an increase of 0.8 percent at the district level.

The school district saw n increase of 0.8 percent for third grade reading while Laughlin saw a jump of 16.7 percent.

Fourth grade math proficiency improved 0.6 percent districtwide but Laughlin saw huge improvement, going from 4.7 percent proficiency to 29.3, an increase of 24.6 percent.

Districtwide fifth graders showed an increase of 2.3 percent in math. Laughlin jumped from a 7.7 percent proficiency to 20.9 percent.

Seventh graders improved from 27.7 percent proficiency in math districtwide to 30.6 percent.

That same group in Laughlin increased from 12.4 percent to 19.2 percent proficiency.

In reading, district seventh-graders decreased from 47.6 percent proficiency to 46.8 but Laughlin seventh grade students made a 2.1 percent improvement from 38.5 percent.

There were some gains in eighth-grade science. Districtwide student proficiency increase 5.9 percent to 36.7 percent.

Laughlin students improved from 20.5 percent proficient to 24.4 percent.

Not everything was gains for Laughlin. Sixth and eighth grades did see drops in both reading and math.

Sixth-grade dropped in math 12.3 percent to 5.3 percent in math. Student proficiency decreased from 35.3 percent to 17.5 percent in reading.

Eighth-grade dropped from 13.6 percent to 9.8 in math and from 40.9 percent to 34.1 percent.

Estes said sixth-grade is a transitional year so drops can happen. Testing is from grades three to five and then six to eight so the tests are different.

Estes said the schools made the most gains in math. The school staff know they implemented two new math programs at the elementary school last year, she continued.

They added IXL math, which is very much a targeted standards based math program, said Estes. It individualizes student learning.

The other program is ST Math, said Estes. It is about visual math and builds upon the conceptual understanding of math, she continued.

“The program lots of times doesn’t even give students numbers,” said Estes. The program is all about manipulating information.

ST Math is on the computer and shows students how to visualize groups of numbers and quickly recognize that a particular group is five boxes or 10 without having to count them. It starts out simply and builds up to more complex problems as the student solves various problems.

“It’s about building that number sense,” said Estes. For example, 10 boxes make one column in the program so if a student recognizes the column as complete, that student recognizes there are 10 boxes without counting each one individually.

It comes back to that mental math, Estes said. It’s about developing that sense of patterns and building that conceptual part of math.

“We’re very proud to say our elementary school brought up their star rating one star,” said Estes. “This was the first time under the new Nevada school performance framework that the high school received a rating and they got a three star (rating).”

The star system is based on overall student achievement so the number of students that show proficiency on the state test, student growth — those who improve from year one to two; absenteeism is included and other factors go into that star rating, she said.

Absenteeism is related to how much school is missed by students. Estes said at the elementary school students can miss 10 percent of the school year, or 18 days, and if they go over that amount, they are considered a chronically absent student.

“That is one area that hurt us,” said Estes. “That’s an area that we’ll actually start digging into deeper this year and work with parents to see why they are missing school.”

The elementary school also has a high transiency rate, she said. The report shows Bennett has a transiency rate of 35.9 percent compared to the district’s 24 percent and the state’s 23 percent.

The transiency rate means that students may start in Laughlin, but didn’t finish the year here, said Estes, and the reverse of not starting here but ending here.

Having a high transiency rate makes it difficult to have better test scores, said Estes. This is also difficult for teachers who constantly have students coming into the classroom midyear, she continued.

“I think what makes it hard for students just like it makes it hard for anybody, if you move constantly through the year, you don’t build any real sense of belonging to any one spot,” said Estes. “Sometimes you’re rebuilding lives at the same time you’re trying to educate lives.”

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