Test scores

Test scores -- Healdsburg elementary schools saw an improvement in math scores.

HES and charter school to introduce new learning initiatives 

Both Healdsburg Elementary School and Healdsburg Charter School have seen an increased improvement in math scores for the K-5 Star Assessment, a literacy, math and reading test that’s given four times a year to help teachers monitor and track students’ progress. Despite the noted improvement, where around 15 percent more students met or exceeded standards, teachers are going to continue to implement new teaching and learning strategies that will help kids tackle word problems and key standards.

During the Nov. 14 meeting of the Healdsburg Unified School District board of trustees, Fitch Mountain Principal Erika McGuire presented the results to the board of trustees and meeting attendees and explained the importance of these benchmark tests.

“This district is really focusing on math and looking for ways to improve across all levels and this K-5 Star report serves as a benchmark for our progress… and it gives us a good sense of where students are,” McGuire said. “This information can help inform decisions that we make, but also how it plays a role in our everyday instruction and it also looks at how students are performing year after year,” she said.

Teachers are also able to pull individual reports. An example of a report would be tracking the progress of a student’s understanding of multiplication or place value.

In terms of HES’s progress, the first test taken at the beginning of the school year saw a result of 51 percent of first graders reaching at or above the benchmark level. Meaning 51 percent met or exceeded basic standards. For the next trimester test taken later in the year, 86 percent of the first graders met or exceeded standards.

When second graders took the first test only 26 percent of test takers met or exceeded standards, but by the time they took the second test, 71 percent received scores of at or above standards. Third graders saw a 60 to 66 percent improvement, fourth graders saw a 46 percent to 65 percent improvement and fifth graders saw a 47 percent to 57 percent improvement.

“In this case, teachers were able to see how many students had mastered the concepts and how many were below that benchmark of standards,” McGuire said. “And all of our students are making progress, which we like to see.”

Healdsburg Charter School also saw noted progress in their understanding of basic math concepts.

When Healdsburg Charter first graders first took the assessment 73 percent reached the standards; however, the second test showed that 88 percent had met standards. Statistics were similar for second graders with 74 percent of test takers reaching benchmark levels and later 87 percent scoring at or above standards.

86 percent of third graders met or exceeded standards and after the second test, 94 percent had reached at or above standards. Fourth graders went from 68 to 88 percent and fifth graders jumped from 64 to 73 percent.

New math instructional strategies:

Despite a larger number of students seeing improvement, HES, Healdsburg Charter School and the Fitch Mountain campus will continue the implementation of their new math teaching strategies and learning initiatives.

According to McGuire, a lot of these new teaching strategies to create a common math culture and use come from educator Jo Boaler’s book, “Mathematical Mindsets,” which advocates for creating a common math language.

To help foster this friendlier and more comprehensive math mindset for students, teachers have dedicated one day a week to problem solving. They have even carved out a week just for math and have a problem of the month where students can collaborate and display their work in the hallways.

“If you go into any class you will hear them talking about their mistakes, their synapses firing, talking about math language and celebrating mistakes as well as getting an A on a test,” McGuire said of this new math class instruction and culture.

Other instructional methods include using the CASE method, which helps students understand and analyze a word problem by breaking it down into more manageable chunks. Teachers are also working on one math standard a week instead of teaching several a week.

Aaron Beseda, a fourth grade teacher at Fitch Mountain, explained how these new methods work.

“This really is for kids to master that one standard,” he said. “We break that standard down into different objectives and it allows the students to really grow their confidence and gets them to think creatively.”

The CASE method breaks down standards by having students chunk, annotate, solve and explain the problem.

“This is the idea that when you are trying to solve a math problem, you are trying to make a case to solve a point. The C stands for reading and chunking, you a read a problem to chunk the pieces together to start and develop and an image of what is going on and after you chunk it you start annotating the problem and create a model of what you see and then you apply concepts to try and solve it and then you have to explain how you solved it to make your case,” Beseda explained.

According to Beseda, this process can be helpful to kids as sometimes they can get tripped up in the vocabulary of a problem, yet with this method, kids can apply concepts while visualizing the problem and how they can try to solve it.

Other schools that have used the CASE and other math learning alternatives include Gilroy Prep School and Mission Prep.

“We really like CASE and we think it might be a game changer,” Beseda said.

School board trustees voiced thanks for the teachers for taking on this new method and for “thinking deeply” on how kids can work with math.

School board Vice President Jami Kiff said of the new technique, “Thank you for spelling this out for us, this is really great.”

With these methods and Star scores in mind, the next step for teachers will be to set up a math action plan for students and their classrooms.

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