LINN — Linn High School Principal Erin Sassmann is nearing the end of her first year at the helm, with Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) and End Of Course (EOC) testing to begin …
LINN — Linn High School Principal Erin Sassmann is nearing the end of her first year at the helm, with Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) and End Of Course (EOC) testing to begin soon. She is aware that test data from the spring of 2022 is not a result of her administration, but using benchmarks from last year to address a gradual decline in some scores is the way to improve them.
“I don’t know why scores have gone down the last few years, but the last time the curriculum was updated was in the 2017-18 school year,” said Sassmann. “A lot has changed since then, and we are updating it this year.”
Testing allows students to take information from the classroom and use it to show their knowledge on their own without assistance, Sassmann noted.
“Teachers make a difference, and great relationships make learning better,” said Sassmann.
In spring 2022, 32.1% of fifth-grade English Language Arts (ELA) students scored proficient or advanced, well below the state average of 44%.
The same students began this year in sixth grade with a test in August to determine their strengths using the Evaluate program.
Sassmann noted that 42% of those students were proficient or advanced. Some of that may be attributed to summer school, which has elements of math and reading. “The kids also have a lot of fun,” Sassmann added.
Using the same test standards in October, that figure jumped to 48% and increased to 55% in December. A second test administered in September showed 48% were among the top two tiers, which dipped to 45% in November and surged to 50% in January.
She explained that teachers use benchmarks to identify deficiencies so that specific lesson plans can be developed.
“Teachers are doing a great job of identifying concerns and adjusting lesson plans to make sure students understand the material,” said Sassmann. “We are using the same types of questions that are on the MAP.”
Using Math data from spring 2022 for fifth-graders, 25% were proficient or advanced, compared to 36% in the state.
Entering sixth grade, those students were near the same level, with 24% in the top two groups in a test administered in August; that figure moved to 29% in October and was at 28% in December.
The second test in September resulted in 31% being proficient or advanced, with a jump to 42% in November and 39% in January.
Current sixth-graders had a Science test last spring, with 32.5% of students in the top levels (compared to a state average of 41%). However, no benchmarks like those offered by Evaluate for Science, Social Studies, or electives exist. “We want to see our scores go up every year, so we’re working on ways to establish our own methods,” said Sassmann.
Last spring, 39% of students in sixth-grade ELA scored proficient or advanced, 5% below the state average.
From the start of the year through January, test scores across the board are much higher for this year’s seventh-graders. In September, 55% of students were proficient or advanced, followed by 54% in November and 66% in January. Alternatively, the second test in October showed 57% of students hit the mark, and 62% were proficient or advanced in December.
In sixth-grade Math, 37.8% of students were proficient or advanced in spring 2022, just below the state average of 42%. This year, seventh-graders were well below that mark, with just 20% scoring in the top two levels. However, as the year progressed, significant improvement was seen, as 36% were in the top tiers in October and 43% in December. The second test showed 33% in September, 39% in November, and 57% in January.
Last year’s seventh-graders did well on the ELA test, with 47.9% achieving proficient or advanced, well above the state average of 38%.
This year, as eighth-graders, Linn students pushed the bar even higher, with 56% hitting the high mark in September, 60% in November, and 68% in January. The secondary test showed similar results, with 59% in both October and January.
As seventh-graders last year, 51.1% of students were proficient or advanced, compared to 38% in the state. At the start of this school year, a test administered in August resulted in just 21% of students — now eighth-graders — being in the top two levels. However, that soon took a radical rise, with 48% hitting the mark in October and 58% in December. On the second test in September, 43% were proficient or advanced, with that figure moving to 51% in November and 66% in January.
“We are seeing significant growth in Math,” said Sassmann.
Among last year’s eighth-graders, 42.5% were proficient or advanced in Science, just above the state average of 38%.
In ELA, 42.5% of last year’s students, now freshmen, were proficient or advanced. That figure moved to 49% in September, then 56% in November, and settled at 53% in January. On the second test, 59% were proficient or advanced in October and December.
For eighth-grade Math students in 2022, 57.5% were proficient or advanced, a figure that dipped significantly in September as 21% of this year’s freshmen were among the top two tiers. That figure improved to 23.4% in November and remained steady at 23% in January. The second test in October saw 28% of students at the top, followed by 28% in December and 31% in February.
EOC exams in Government at the end of the 2021-22 school year saw 33% of freshmen (now sophomores) were proficient or advanced, while the state average was 40%.
Last year’s freshmen were below the state average (35%), as 27% scored proficient or advanced in Biology 1.
Sixty percent of last year’s sophomores scored in the top two levels in Language Arts 1, and this year in Language Arts 2, 51% were proficient or advanced in September, with a mark of 47% in November and 48% in January. On the second test, 50% scored proficient or advanced in October, 56% in December, and 57% in February.
One of the most important factors in bettering student test scores is vertical teaming, sometimes called vertical alignment.
“Administrators and teachers have met to discuss standards and determine what to focus on for each grade level in relation to the next level,” said Sassmann. “We want to make sure that what’s taught in sixth grade flows into seventh grade and so on.”
Sassmann added that the 2023-24 school year plan is to create time for Response to Intervention (RTI) daily for struggling students in grades 6-12. She also plans to increase student engagement in all courses, utilize every minute of class time, and keep classes smaller for ELA and Math in grades 6-8 to allow more personalized instructions.
Additionally, Sassmann said she would continue revising and building the curriculum by adding more rigor and critical thinking, adding an ACT review to each curriculum, and utilizing ACT-type questions daily.
“For those who plan to attend college, the ACT is an important tool, and we are embedding ACT-type questions into our regular curriculum to better prepare students,” she noted.
Juniors are encouraged to take the ACT, with the state paying for everyone to take it once. However, Sassmann noted that not all students are bound for college.
“Some choose to go directly into the workforce, and others go into the military,” she said.
In 2022, Linn students had an average of 17.4 on the ACT, a little lower than the state average of 20.9. That’s been a trend for several years, with a 19 in 2021 (20.8), no testing in 2020, 19.5 in 2019 (20.6), and 19.3 in 2018 (19.9).
Sassmann said she looks forward to this spring’s testing data to see how changes made during the school year translate to improvement.
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