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Lawrence school board honors Pinckney, Quail Run elementaries for gains in state assessments

Scores were down slightly at district and state levels

After a one-year reprieve from state testing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lawrence school district celebrated the spring 2021 performance of two of its K-5 schools during Monday’s school board meeting.

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“Although this is not a data presentation, I do want to highlight the impact,” Superintendent Anthony Lewis said during the board meeting’s special recognition time for educators representing Pinckney and Quail Run elementary schools.

Lewis said third, fourth and fifth graders at both elementaries demonstrated student improvement between 2019 and 2021. That means in the areas of English language arts and math, all three grade levels boosted their scores in both subject areas at levels three and four, which are considered proficient, Lewis said.

“We want the majority of our students to score level three and four,” Lewis said, turning his focus on Pinckney’s scores. “In a pandemic year, these amazing educators, along with their colleagues at Pinckney, were able to still make gains in the areas of English language arts and math. That is unheard of, to make gains in every single grade level that’s tested, in both content areas.”

Screenshot/USD 497 Pinckney Elementary School’s Kansas Assessment Program scores for English language arts in 2019 and 2021
Screenshot/USD 497 Pinckney Elementary School’s Kansas Assessment Program scores for math in 2019 and 2021

Fourth grade teacher Laurie Snider expressed pride during the recognition, while standing with fellow teachers Krista Bradley and Monica Dutcher. “We’re proud of the students for taking the effort to get to school during a pandemic, to follow the mitigations that we gave and still achieve the best they could,” Snider said.

Lewis said the achievement was a reflection of the entire school community, noting Principal Miah Lugrand was unable to attend.

“This is just a representation of teachers at Pinckney. Although we know that this just didn’t happen in third grade. There was a foundation in kindergarten, first and second, so to all the staff at Pinckney, we say thank you and congratulations.”

Quail Run Principal James Polk said he was excited to introduce teachers from third to fifth grades who contributed to last year’s assessment results: Madison Cundiff, Sabrina Giersch, Brandy Hayes, Erica Keller, Mikaela Mitchell, Mindy Nickles, Ashli Smith and Michele Trompeter.

Screenshot/USD 497 Quail Run Elementary School’s Kansas Assessment Program scores for English language arts in 2019 and 2021
Screenshot/USD 497 Quail Run Elementary School’s Kansas Assessment Program scores for math in 2019 and 2021

Polk said he was extremely proud of the exceptional work by staff. “Not only is this a reflection of their hard work but … the parents and students as well.”

Lewis said he would visit the schools the next day to celebrate with staff members.

Board President Erica Hill congratulated the schools as well. “I echo everything Dr. Lewis said. This is incredible work and so I definitely appreciate that. We all do.”

The Kansas Assessment Program includes various tools and tests aligned to the Kansas statewide curriculum standards that evaluate student learning and meet requirements for federal and state accountability, according to its website. Students in third through eighth grades and 10th grade take the English language arts and math assessments annually. Science assessments are administered to fifth, eighth and 11th graders.

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To check assessments at other schools in the Lawrence school district, click here. Reports are available according to building, subject, grade level and various demographics.

Districtwide, the percentage of students scoring at the third and fourth proficiency levels was 31% in math in 2021, down from 38% in 2019; 44% in English language arts in 2019 and 2021; and 41% in science in 2021, down from 44% in 2019.

In the first statewide scorecard since the pandemic, assessments showed declines, which state education experts predicted. A news bulletin from the Kansas Association of School Boards said that 6% more students scored at level one — the lowest — in math in 2021 compared to 2019, and 4.54% dropped out of the two highest levels compared to 2019.

Scores in English language arts also declined across the state but at a lower rate, KASB reported, with less than 1% more students scoring at the lowest level and 1.42% dropping from the two highest levels.

Experts had predicted a decline in student achievement due to factors of the pandemic such as personal and family trauma, economic challenges, and lost instructional time and continuity. Officials at the Kansas State Department of Education caution that comparisons with previous years are complicated because at least 12,000 fewer students took the assessments in 2021. Overall enrollment was lower in public and private schools in 2020-2021, and students were required to test in a supervised environment, therefore some students in remote-only settings could not participate, the KASB bulletin explained.

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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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