Tulsa Public Schools’ performance on state testing continued to trail the statewide averages in every grade and subject in 2018.

The district’s 80 schools showed uneven performance in the second year of more rigorous state testing. Some of the district’s highest-performing schools saw marked declines in their proficiency rates, while some lower-performing schools saw large percentage increases in the number of students who were proficient. The district’s overall average scores in lower grades declined quite a bit from 2017, but seventh- and eighth-grade proficiency climbed slightly.

The proficiency rate for TPS eighth-grade science students was 26 percent — up two percentage points from 2017 but still trailing the statewide average by 13 percent.

Fifth-grade data wasn’t immediately available because the district was still waiting for final data from the state, TPS said.

TPS officials stressed that the Oklahoma Schools Testing Program results are a snapshot in time and that they primarily use the district’s internal assessments to gauge performance and make changes.

“The biggest barrier to the state tests is the single point nature of it, which is why we use MAP (the district’s internal assessments),” said Stephen Fedore, chief analytics officer for TPS.

He said the district looks for “actionable data” — data that allows the district to correct or change something.

“We see MAP as that really actionable tool. The state assessment, rarely does it lead to the types of actionable data that we do see,” said Fedore. However, he said, on individual school levels, principals and teachers look for places to improve based on the statewide assessments.

At one of the district’s highest-performing schools, Eisenhower International Elementary, a precipitous decline in third-grade math proficiency — from 83 percent in 2017 to 67 percent in 2018 — is prompting some changes.

“We’re actually excited to get the results so we know what to change, what to implement to get kids college- and career-ready,” said Connie Horner, the Eisenhower principal.

“With the new assessments that we’re taking, the way you approach math is differently than the way we’ve been teaching it,” said Horner. “We have to make sure that we’re not teaching one specific way. We need to be able to approach math in multiple ways. That’s one of the areas that we’re going to be working on here at Eisenhower. There’s more than one way to get an answer, and we need to teach kids that.”

She said it was the school’s first time to use Eureka math, the district’s math curriculum, and it was different from what the school had done for years. She said her teachers would be getting more training on the new curriculum in hopes of improving student results.

Even with the decrease, Eisenhower was head and shoulders above the district’s average of 20 percent in third-grade math proficiency. Eisenhower was among the 10 schools that had 50 percent proficiency or better on any of the state tests. In 2017, there were 13.

The highest proficiency rates in the district were at the soon-to-be-renamed Lee School, which had the three highest proficiency rates on any test. Eighty-one percent of third-graders at the school were proficient in math, and 76 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in English language arts.

Fourteen TPS schools had at least one test result where 0 percent of its students were deemed proficient. In 2017, 12 schools fit that description.

Some schools that had proficiency rates well below the state averages saw scores rise.

At Jones Elementary, proficiency rates climbed for fourth-graders in English language arts and in math by 13 and 16 percentage points, respectively, while the third-grade math proficiency rate dipped by 13 percentage points.

Bradley Griffin, the Jones principal, said the school was excited by some of the growth it has seen. He credited it to spending an hour a day on personalized learning and grouping students together, regardless of grade, if they were working to learn the same skills.

He, too, stressed that the tests capture only a snapshot in time.

“We are very pleased, and we’re going to celebrate the fact that we showed growth in our test scores,” said Griffin. “However, this is just one particular snapshot in time of how well our students do. I want to point out, … this one snapshot in time doesn’t necessarily define what our teachers work so hard to accomplish.”

There’s also a factor that the district is finding hard to quantify in regard to test scores: the Oklahoma teacher walkout.

Fedore said it’s tough to tell whether scores were affected by the walkout, which occurred during the original testing window and forced the state to expand times for tests.

Jones thinks scores might’ve been higher if students had had some time to prepare rather than taking the tests shortly after returning to school after nearly two weeks off in mid-April.

“There wasn’t a lot of time to get them back to their academic brains,” said Griffin. “So I feel like it did have a significant impact.”

Parents should be able to see how their children did on the tests in September.

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Samuel Hardiman 918-581-8466


Twitter: @samhardiman