The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) recently released report cards for every school in the state, reporting test scores from the 2018-19 school year. The staff at A.C. Houghton Elementary had been waiting with much anticipation for their school math score. According to Principal Tracey Johnson, “we were watching the scores like it was the stock market.” When the score was released, they were very happy –their math score had increased by 20% from the previous year. Plus, at 48%, they were one point above the state average of 47%.
Last school year, Principal Johnson and staff knew they needed to focus on math. They had a building-wide goal to concentrate on math for all students, kindergarten through third grade. They created small group instruction, worked on teaching strategies, involved ELL and Special Education teachers and utilized an instructional coach from the InterMountain ESD. They changed curriculum to better align to state standards and had weekly data meetings to really drill down what each student needed to work on.
Only third graders take the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) test, but the staff involved kindergarten through second grade students to really support the third graders prior to spring testing. Each third grade classroom was “adopted” by younger students, who brought them treats and offered encouragement during preparation time. On test day, all the younger students lined the hallways, with applause and positive words to the third graders. “We wanted our younger students to realize that working hard can be so positive, and supporting other students is a culture we want to cultivate in our school,” Johnson said.
The other good news was that the school’s ELA (English Language Arts) scores also increased by 3%, getting them really close to the state average. A.C. Houghton has also been promoting the importance of good attendance to all students through assemblies, classroom incentives and a student self-manager program.
Another positive aspect of higher scores, Johnson said, is for teachers to feel they have accomplished something. “This really lifts our teachers up and helps them see ‘What I do matters.’ They want our kids to succeed and they want to see the growth in each of them.”