Baldwin schools make state standard of excellence
It was time for all Baldwin School District schools to celebrate Wednesday after discovering every school had made the state's standard of excellence in at least two exams.
Marion Springs Elementary School once again received the standard of excellence on all three tests. The MSES students took the fourth-grade math, fourth-grade science and the fifth-grade reading exams.
"We're pretty excited," MSES Principal Gus Wegner said. "The kids know what they have done. But as I told (Supt. of schools) Mr. (James) White, it takes the whole building's effort and the district's effort to achieve this."
The Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center also received the standard of excellence on all three of the same tests. Vinland Elementary School received the standard of excellence on the math and reading exams. VES has not received the science results from the state yet.
"The part I enjoy the most is when the results come in and they are positive results," BESIC Principal Tom Mundinger said. "It validates all the hard work. It makes all the effort worth while. It's an overwhelming feeling when the teachers and students get to reap the rewards for their hard work."
Baldwin Junior High School earned the standard of excellence in four of the five tests it took. Those exams were the sixth-grade social studies, seventh-grade math, eighth-grade social studies and eighth-grade reading. The seventh-grade science was the only test not to earn the standard of excellence.
Baldwin High School earned the standard of excellence in the math and social studies exams, but not in reading or science. BHS Assistant Principal Bret Jones said he is not sure how close the reading and science tests are to the standard of excellence, because they are still checking the results for possible mistakes. BHS did make adequate yearly progress (AYP) for the math and reading tests, a step toward total AYP which will be determined later.
When the schools find out the standard of excellence has been reached, each celebrates in different ways.
BESIC gives a hint to the students with a song over the intercom. Mundinger plays Queen's "We are the Champions," which signals a school assembly in the gym to announce the results.
"That experience in itself, was clearly one of the top five moments in my time as principal here," Mundinger said.
BESIC fifth-grade teacher Donna Reed enjoys the children's reactions.
"It was amazing," Reed said of the children's reactions. "The first year they didn't really know what it meant. I think we (teachers) didn't really know what it meant. Last year they knew, and the whole room just erupted. It was amazing."
BESIC fourth-grade teacher Gina Hill also loved the student's reaction to the song.
"To see the look on their faces was pure excitement," Hill said of the students. "They were surprised and overjoyed. I had the same reaction. I was just very excited for the kids."
MSES throws an ice cream party for the students who took the assessments. The party includes a t-shirt and a giant Hershey candy bar.
VES Principal Bill Scott said the students enjoy a cookout and extra recess time for receiving the standard of excellence.
Scott said the standard of excellence is an achievement, but also something that administrators look for.
"It's a big deal, but you want to expect excellence from your kids," Scott said.
BJHS Principal Connie Wright said the eighth graders have already celebrated their assessments. The students went to a movie and ate lunch at Mr. Gatti's one day, before enjoying a fun afternoon at the school.
One reason for the early party was Wright checked results soon after her students took the computer tests.
"We've already kind of cheated and celebrated some, because we've been able to look at the results online," Wright said. "We have some things planned. We want to reward our teachers as well as our students. They have worked very hard."
Schools were first expecting results late last week, but when they didn't come, they were told to wait until Monday. The schools were again unable to view results on Monday. But, on Tuesday the preliminary results finally came.
The results that arrived Tuesday are preliminary, because schools have the right to challenge questionable scores. If schools believe a score looks out of place, it can ask for a recount on that student's score. For example, if a student receives a 96 on two parts of the test but a zero on the other part, the school might challenge the zero score.
"My understanding is preliminaries are only going to go up from there," Wright said. "They aren't going to call you and say this kid didn't do as well as we thought he did. We might call them and question scores."
One of the hard things to do for principals is to wait to recognize the results, because they can view them a couple days after the computer tests are taken.
"The frustrating part is that we are not supposed to acknowledge them officially," Wright said. "We can see them and the kids can see them, but it's frustrating that we have to wait to do anything officially until May."
Wright said the state advises administrators not to check results very soon or often after taking the assessments. But Wright found out other principals checked results frequently.
"I talked to the other principals at the Frontier League meeting and I asked if they were waiting," Wright said. "One principal said 'I check them every 10 minutes and I will continue to.'"
Despite the advice from the state, Wright said the schools are told to check the results early for a reason by the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation.
"CETE is encouraging us to look at those scores and to use April and May to re-teach on areas that we didn't do so well in," Wright said. "If we were waiting until right now to look at them, we don't have any time to re-teach."
Another area of the state assessment results that administrators have problems with is the printing of scores in the newspaper.
"I really don't think that's a good thing," Wright said. "When this first started, we were told very specifically these would not be used to compare one school to another school, but they would be used specifically for individual school improvement. And that has simply not been the case. They have been 100 percent comparing one school to another school."
Wright said BJHS made the AYP last year but since the school failed to make it two years in a row; some newspapers said BJHS failed to make AYP.
One of the reasons for schools to keep making AYP is new students each year. Each school has new students that come from other states and have never taken Kansas assessments. This may cause a drop in scores for a school, because some students aren't used to the test.
Wright said those factors are not accounted for when the results are printed. This is why she believes state assessments are hard for anyone not involved in them to understand.
"I think that it's just such a complex issue, that if you are not involved in it every day, you don't understand it," Wright said. "So for people just to take bits and pieces and publicize those, it's very difficult."