GPS district officials presented an overview of the scores and the issues with them to the governing board at its Sept. 28 business meeting. The presenters were Brandie Burton, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment at the elementary school level, and Krista Cox, who holds the same position for secondary schools.
The decline was between the state’s standardized test scores from spring 2019 to spring 2021 because the state canceled the 2020 testing as the coronavirus pandemic took hold on the state and sent students home for the fourth quarter of that school year.
Additionally, the testing instruments have changed in the meantime. Arizona used the AzMerit test in 2019 and the AzM2 in 2021. The test is scheduled to change again in 2022, mostly to AASA, or Arizona Academic Standards Assessment.
Using the data that was available, Burton and Cox showed that GPS students outperformed Maricopa County and state of Arizona students on the percentage of students achieving proficient averages at all secondary and elementary school grade levels.
Furthermore, the declines in GPS scores were less severe than those suffered by the overall county and state scores.
Board Member Jill Humpherys questioned if the change in tests was partly responsible for the decline in scores.
“Certainly, those changes do impact these results,” Burton said. “... They certainly impacted those data. Again, looking forward to spring of 2022, we’re going to see yet another piece of fruit thrown into this mix because we’re introducing a new assessment again.”
Burton and Cox also reviewed district efforts to stem the decline and improve the results. Among those efforts were providing campus administrative teams and teacher groups called professional learning communities, or PLCs, with support to analyze test data in making decision on how to improve student outcomes; continuing the adoption of new English language arts curriculum for students in grades 7-12; and the use of tests for grades K-12 to target students’ needs for school and to guide school year and summer support programs.
The board approved first reads to changes in four district policies:
- additional language to address class sizes for special education classes;
- stating that advisory committees from the governing board must follow state open meeting laws, including the posting of agendas and keeping minutes;
- allowing school boards to immediately adjourn if necessary to maintain decorum at a meeting and the rules of order; and
- adding language to prohibit the use of the public comment period to pitch a sale of items to the district.
Board Member Lori Wood said she hoped for additional discussion on the last two items at the next board policy meeting in October because of public input on those policies. Board President Charles Santa Cruz said that would happen. The policies must undergo a second read and approval next month before they become part of the district’s policy manual.