Writing scores misleading

First of all, we commend education reporter Shay Burk and the Tribune staff for their excellent coverage of student learning in the greater Hastings community.

The Tribune, in general, and Shay, in particular, do an excellent job of keeping the public informed of the great work in our public and private schools.

In Hastings Public and Adams Central, we have 4,500 students who go to school for more than seven hours a day — learning to read, write, compute, think, create, explore, work together and much, much more.

As a society, we have decided to test kids on a yearly basis to publish the results for all to see — and to hold us as educators accountable for high standards of student learning.

It is clear that, in this effort to condense the learning of more than 1,000 hours of instruction per year into one little number, much gets lost.

Unfortunately, the way the state now publishes that one little number loses even more. This is clear with the release of the recent state writing results, particularly at the elementary level.

The Tribune reported accurate results (Hastings Tribune, June 5), based on the new rules from the Department of Education. However, those numbers are incredibly misleading.

Student scores are categorized into three performance levels: Below, Meets, Exceeds. The state has decided to “hide” the scores of both Below and Exceeding students if there are fewer than 10 students in each category to protect their identities.

For Hastings Public, our elementary buildings had 78 percent, 66 percent, 61 percent, 53 percent, 53 percent, and 47 percent Meeting the standard. Yet our district average for students Meeting or Exceeding the standard was 72 percent.

On first glance, this does not mesh. That’s because the building scores do not include students exceeding the standards.

For Adams Central, the elementary schools had scores of 69 percent, 65 percent, and 60 percent Meeting the standard. This, too, does not include those students Exceeding the standard.

Unfortunately, because of the state’s new rules, we can’t share that total. You can rest assured, however, that Adams Central has more kids proficient than the state average of 68 percent.

Both districts are pleased to be above the state average, but not satisfied with having students not meeting the standard. The professional educators of our two districts are to be commended for their continued dedication and hard work to improve student learning.

We only wish that these results could be published widely for all to see and celebrate.

Chad Dumas, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment at Hastings Public Schools
Josh Lewis, curriculum director at Adams Central

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