Small schools always face challenges when it comes to the report cards released annually by the state Department of Education. A single student having a bad day can skew the results disproportionately due to small class sizes.
During the 2020-21 school year, that perennial problem was exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic.
“We are still playing catch-up from the spring of 2020,” said Oldham-Ramona Superintendent Mike Fischer, referring to the state’s recommendation that all schools go to remote learning. “Distance learning looked different for everyone, especially for the colony, which relied on little to no technology resources to interact with teaching staff.”
This impacted the district’s overall scores. At Oldham-Ramona, 61% of elementary students met or exceeded expectations in English Language Arts (ELA) and 71% did so in the area of mathematics. At the Spring Lake Colony, 22% of elementary students met or exceeded expectations in ELA and 11% in mathematics.
District scores show that 39% of O-R students met or exceeded expectations in ELA with 40% doing so in math. No scores will be available for science until early next year.
However, the lower district scores cannot be solely attributed to the colony. At the junior high level, 25% of O-R students met or exceeded expectations in ELA and 25% in mathematics. At the high school level, 30% did so in ELA and 30% in mathematics.
Fischer believes the pandemic played into these lower scores in a second way because the district uses information obtained through testing to learn about students and identify areas of need. With no testing done during the 2019-20 school year, the district did not have this information.
“The gap year in testing from the spring of 2020 makes it a little more difficult to address the individual needs of our students as we weren’t able to easily see if our students were able to show progress from year to year,” he explained.
Even though the state provided little information on this year’s school report card, Rutland Superintendent Brian Brosnahan felt good about what he saw there.
“I believe that the card is overall positive,” he said, “but there are always improvements and growth to be made in all aspects of education.”
District-wide, 54% of students in Rutland met or exceeded expectations in ELA and 40% did so in the area of mathematics. At the elementary level, 56% met or exceeded expectations in ELA and 42% in mathematics.
Junior high and high school scores were also strong in most areas, with 66% of junior high and 71% of high school students meeting or exceeding expectations in ELA. In mathematics, 58% of junior high and 29% of high school students did so.
Both districts showed college and career readiness scores that exceeded state averages. In Rutland, 100% of students showed coursework readiness compared to the state average of 82%. The school average for assessment readiness was 77% compared to the state average of 63%, and the school average for college and career readiness was 77% compared to the state average of 57%.
At Oldham-Ramona, 91% showed coursework readiness, 82% showed assessment readiness and 73% showed college and career readiness.
Superintendents at both schools indicate the information will be used to improve the quality of education for their students. Brosnahan said Rutland is currently doing a comprehensive needs assessment with the DOE and will utilize the information as part of that.
“We’ll also use the data at the district level – again, with other pieces of individual data – to drive towards growth for all students,” he said.
Fischer also emphasized the importance of other information in making educational decisions.
“While information like test scores is important, we don’t want to overemphasize what amounts to a quick snapshot of our students’ learning abilities,” he said. “We have a variety of other tools that we utilize throughout the school year to help us determine the learning levels of our students and how we can best focus on improving the instruction our students receive.”