P-S Students Score High On Stanford 9

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Comparing one school against another is akin to the old saw about apples and oranges.

But Kathe Ketchem boasts that her Pine-Strawberry Elementary School students' Stanford Achievement Test scores were even higher than she expected.

And she expected them to be high.

"Our parents should be very pleased with the school's performance as a whole, and their childrens' individual performance," Ketchem said. "Our kids are making more than a years' growth in a years' time at almost all grade levels.

"Overall, our test scores are going steadily up in all areas ... We're still analyzing, so these are just our preliminary results, but right now overall, schoolwide 63 percent of our reading scores were in the 60th percentile or above; 86 percent of our math scores were in the 60th percentile or above; 75 percent of our language scores were in the 60th percentile above."

Arizona schools use two main standardized tests the Stanford 9 and AIMS to measure student achievement, each of which is mandated by the Arizona Department of Education. The Stanford Achievement Test, 9th Edition (Stanford 9) has been used in Arizona since 1979 to measure student achievement in basic reading, language and math skills in comparison to a national sample of students, whereas the AIMS tests are designed specifically for Arizona students.

Stanford 9 scores are reported in terms of a national percentile rank (NPR). An NPR of 55, for example, means that the student's score on that test is equal to or better than that of 55 percent of the students in the national sample. The national average is 50.

Pine-Strawberry Elementary led all Rim country schools and beat national averages and state scores in all grades and subjects by as much as 32 percentile points in some areas. For example, P-S third-graders scored in the 82nd percentile in math and in the 79th percentile in language. In math, seventh-graders placed in the 94th percentile and eighth-graders ranked in the 93rd percentile.

"I'm extremely proud of our school's performance," Ketchem said, "but I'm not surprised, because we have spent a great deal of time ... teaching to the students' success and achievement.

"In other words, we look at where our students are, we analyze the test scores from the year before, and we look at where the gaps are where we need to help the students be more proficient. Then we address those gaps in our instruction, constantly focusing and refocusing on that. When you do that, you're helping those students achieve in the areas where those gaps are, and that's what it's all about."

No other Rim country school did as well as P-S, although nearly all of them showed overall improvements over last year's scores and some made dramatic showings in specific areas.

Payson Elementary School first-graders placed in the 72nd percentile in reading and in the 70th percentile in math. Frontier Elementary School students scored in the 73rd percentile in math, where schoolwide FES scored in the 69th percentile in that subject.

Payson High School's highest percentile was 64th in ninth-grade math, but it slipped under the national average in its schoolwide scores for reading (48th percentile) and language (40th percentile).

Rim Country Middle School's highest score, a 63rd percentile, was earned by its eighth-grade readers.

Although some members of the Payson Unified School District board were contacted to discuss their schools' performances in the Stanford 9 testing, none were yet familiar enough with the results to comment.

"I just got back from vacation, so I haven't even seen the results," PUSD Superintendent Herb Weissenfels said, when contacted Monday afternoon.

"The thing you need to remember when you look at different kids in different schools and grade levels is, you're comparing apples to oranges," Ketchem said. "You get the best results when you look at one group of kids and track them over a number of years so you can see what percentage of growth they're making each year, and if they are making a years' growth in a years' time.

"If you look at the grade level and the scores are consistently low, then (school administrators) need to look at the curriculum. There's a gap there.

"That's all these scores are good for," Ketchem said. "They allow you to take a look at your curriculum and your instruction, and to find and take care of gaps so you can continue to improve to help kids learn and be successful."

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