Tuesday, July 22, 2014

COBBS: Assessing OHS amid transition

By RYAN COBBS, Ottawa High School | 8/26/2013

As we welcome the new school year, we embrace the change brought by the approval and implementation of the Common Core Standards, also known as the College and Career Readiness Standards. Although this transition has not necessarily been swift, the state still has not recognized a state assessment program for the current year.

The result of this transition: The scores on state assessments do not have the power that they once did, though that does not mean we deny their significance in measuring our accomplishments at Ottawa High School.  

As we welcome the new school year, we embrace the change brought by the approval and implementation of the Common Core Standards, also known as the College and Career Readiness Standards. Although this transition has not necessarily been swift, the state still has not recognized a state assessment program for the current year.

The result of this transition: The scores on state assessments do not have the power that they once did, though that does not mean we deny their significance in measuring our accomplishments at Ottawa High School.  

We are pleased with our assessment scores this year and the work put in both by our student body and our faculty and staff. As we transitioned last year from state standards to Common Core, we hypothesized we would see a dramatic reduction in assessment scores for two reasons. First, we were in the beginning phases of teaching a different curriculum. Secondly, it was well publicized that the assessment scores themselves were not going to be a measure of school improvement in the same ways they had been in the past; therefore, we believed we would see a drop in student motivation.  

In 2012, Ottawa High School had 89 percent of its students meet standards on the reading assessment and 80 percent of them reach standards in mathematics. That put us about 5 percent behind our Kansas peers in math, and about 1 percent behind them in reading. Our 2013 results had us scoring at 88 percent in reading and 84 percent in mathematics. We actually closed the gap between our peers in reading by about a half percent and blew right past our peers in mathematics by scoring more than 3 percent above the state average and more than 4 percent higher than we had the previous year.  

As we look to improve overall as a school, OHS understands this transformation to Common Core cannot and will not happen overnight. Therefore, we have developed goals that begin with becoming the best school in the Ottawa school district, then Franklin County, then the Frontier League, and finally the state of Kansas. In looking at assessment results of the entire district, OHS rose to the top. In mathematics, the assessed class at OHS (juniors) performed higher than any other grade in the school district, with the exception of the seventh grade, which was only 0.08 percentage points higher. In reading, OHS was a full 3 percent higher than any other assessed group in the district.  

We are very proud of our results this year, especially during a year when the expectation might have flexed. Our scores, in my opinion, prove that our staff’s efforts in teaching a structured, cohesive and sequential curriculum have impacted our student learning in a positive manner. Although, I am proud of our assessment scores, I by no means believe that average in comparison to the state is a great place to be. We will continue to work hard with the implementation of our new curriculum, to structure our classrooms in a manner so that student learning is above all else, and ultimately to secure a place at the top of the ranks for OHS and its students.

On a final note, I would like to say that although the state has released these assessment scores, they do not finalize them for several months. Therefore, the scores are subject to change. We think, however, the current scores are an accurate representation of our results.  

Dr. Ryan Cobbs is principal at Ottawa High School. Email him at cobbsr@usd290.org or call (785) 229-8020.

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