By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
Cottonwood Intermediate finished just short of standards for Adequate Yearly Progress for 2009 on state assessments, and those numbers remained steady compared to 2008.
The school had a 75.6 percent score in reading last year, down from 2008’s level of 77.1, and in math, scores were about the same with 2008 showing 74.4 percent and 2009 at 74.6 percent.
The state levels were 79.7 for reading and 77.8 for math last year, and with those numbers going up for 2010, Cottonwood Principal Donna Sill said the school has implemented new programs to help meet those standards.
Those include the Literacy First program, which was implemented district-wide for this year. Sill said this has allowed teachers to use data more effectively than ever.
“We’ve always used our data, but I think we’re doing a better job of using it to drive our instruction,” she said. “We’re trying new and different, innovative ways to test kids.”
Sill said some kids don’t perform well on test, with some clutching, and she said educators have had to come up with ways to keep them from doing so.
“We have better collaborations,” she said. “The teachers get together and discuss ways to teach a certain standard. They’re doing a better job of sharing that information with each other so that everybody can teach the standards effectively to the kids.”
Sill said though the school did not make AYP overall, Cottonwood met standards in most of its subgroups. However, the state requires standards to be met in all subgroups to make AYP, and the principal said some of those were as little as 10 percent short.
All of USD No. 480’s elementary schools made AYP, while upper level schools missed the mark on assessments. Sill said there part of the reason for this is the newness of the test for elementary students.
“It is that’s really the first major test that they take,” she said. “Third grade’s the very first time they take it. It’s not old. It’s new. It’s fun. It’s exciting. By the time you’ve taken it two, three, four, five times, there’s a lot of times when kids don’t understand how important it is. They don’t see the relevance. They’re tired of taking it. That’s one of the things we’re trying to work on this year is motivation to get the kids to want to do better.”
Sill said for this reason, students need to be motivated, and she said from day one, educators and parents must stress how important the test is.
“If our livelihood is based on a test that’s given for three days in math and three days in reading, we all have to work together to make the kids understand how important this test is,” she said.
Sill like most educators believe No Child Left Behind is a good goal for schools, and she likewise believes teachers should never stop trying to get students to be proficient on standards.
“However, I think it is an unrealistic goal based on the United States’ fear of being overcome by other countries who don’t have the same standards and they don’t have the same testing protocol that we do,” she said. “They don’t even educate 100 percent of their students.”
Sill said it is hard for her to think of American students being compared to those in other countries who are not doing the same things.
“It’s hard for me to think we’re judging a student’s success on one test that’s given three days in the year,” she said. “I would love for everyone of my kids to be proficient. I would love for every kid in the United States to be proficient. I think it’s a gallant goal, and we should all strive towards it.”#