Multiple choice test

The Kuna School District is looking at strategies to put in place to improve ISAT scores, which were down in the spring of 2019.

Scores for last year’s Idaho Standards Achievement Tests have been released, and Kuna School District’s results fell short of state averages and school district leaders’ goals.

The standardized test, known as the ISAT, is administered each spring to all public school students in grades 3-8 and 10. It gauges students’ proficiency in mathematics and English language arts and literacy (ELA).

According to data from the Idaho State Department of Education, 44.6% of Kuna students were proficient or better in ELA, and 35.4% were proficient or better in math.

Statewide, 55% of Idaho students were proficient or better in ELA, and 44.4% were proficient or better in math.

Kuna School District Superintendent Wendy Johnson announced the results at an Aug. 13 school board meeting.

“We should at least be where the state is, as far as the results, because we historically have been,” Johnson told the Kuna school board.

Kuna’s ISAT scores declined about 2% from last year in both ELA and math. It’s the second year in a row math scores have declined. And it’s the second time in the last four years that ELA scores have dropped from the previous year.

“When I see inconsistency in data, that means there’s not a system really in place in that particular grade or school,” Johnson said.

In 2015, the Kuna School District set lofty proficiency goals. The five-year goal was to reach 80% proficiency in ELA and 70% in math by next year.

Johnson said district administrators were expecting an increase in scores this year. Moving forward, Johnson hopes to use the data to implement new strategies and improve scores.

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“Our strategy right now: It’s easier to blame and to forget, but if we’re seeing some success in our state, then we should be learning from those successes,” she said.

West Ada School District had the highest ISAT scores among the 10 largest districts in the state, according to data collected by Idaho Education News. Among West Ada students, 68% were proficient in ELA, and 58.9% were proficient in math.

Johnson said Kuna administrators have been meeting with West Ada counterparts to find out what they’re doing right. The top two reasons for success: implementation of professional learning communities and interim assessment requirements, Johnson said.

A professional learning community is a group of educators that regularly meets and works together to improve teaching skills and students’ academic performance. Johnson said Kuna School District has utilized these communities in the past. Now, the district plans to reestablish them.

“(Teachers) know what to do, we just need to get them together talking about it,” Johnson said. “When we look at the schools that are seeing really great results, it’s when the teachers are given the time and the intentionality to plan around students.”

Within these professional communities, teachers will share data on interim assessments — evaluations of students’ learning progress before and after standardized tests.

The district will now require schools conduct interim assessments, Johnson said. West Ada administrators targeted the interim assessments as a driver of success, and state education officials asked Kuna to provide additional assessments, she said.

“I would say it’s teaching to the test as much as they can,” she said.

Amid Kuna’s rapid growth, smaller class sizes and additional resources for teachers to improve curriculum will help improve the scores, Johnson said.

“I want to come back to you next year with a whole different story, even if it’s not huge, but the trajectory is in the right place,” she said. “I know my administrators and my teachers want that, too.”

Reporter Ryan Suppe can be reached at 208-922-3008. Follow him on Twitter: @salsuppe.

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