Double-digit growth for West Middle School in 2017-18 CMAS testingAug. 21, 2018
After a down year - in terms of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) student testing in 2016, which dropped West Middle School to a level requiring state scrutiny - the school enjoyed a major upward spike in last spring's CMAS.
Principal Shalah Sims pointed to across-the-board improvements that lifted West well above the state average and just behind Holmes Middle School. The two of
In addition, West's test scores exceeded the state in nearly every “reported measure of growth,” a school report states. Highlights reveal school-wide, double-digit growth in both the language arts and math testing categories.
Located at 924 W. Pikes Peak Ave., West has just under 300 students.
Examples of West's school-wide results over the last three years (by percentile, taken from the CMAS Growth Report) appear below.
- English Language Arts - 2016, 52nd; 2017, 39th; 2018, 60th.
- Math - 2016, 50th; 2017, 36th; 2018, 57th.
Contributing to the upswing were similar gains for students who are minorities or who qualify for free and reduced lunches, Sims pointed out.
In addition to these testing outcomes, the school last year had a “70 percent reduction in office discipline referrals,” the school report adds.
Sims said she is confident that the school's advances will put it back into its former category within the Colorado Department of Education achievement framework as a “Performance” school. The above-mentioned state scrutiny was in response to
So what did the school do to get so much better in one year? Sims described a multi-pronged effort to work in unison as a staff, to make fuller use of data, to identify students with needs and to reach out to them one-on-one as needed, even scheduling staff visits to the homes of students' families in certain situations (such as an F grade).
But Sims also believes that a big help to the school's upgrade has been an administrative change involving herself. When she was hired in 2015, it continued
The two schools share the building.
After the 2016-17 school year, the district decided to go back to the one- school/one principal plan it had used in creating the “West Campus” in 2009. That allowed Sims to head up West Middle alone (with the help of an assistant principal), while Karen Newton, the former middle school assistant principal, was put in charge of West Elementary.
In the year since that rearrangement, according to Sims, she feels she has been able to be much more involved with her school's daily activities. These include visiting classrooms - which helps her understand different teacher and student situations - and even meeting students in the hallways, she said.
For the recently started 2017-18 school year, more help has arrived, with the addition of a full-time reading interventionist and counselor (the latter funded under the voter-approved mill-levy override last fall).
For all the successes in the past year, Sims revealed one area where she said she is “pleading” with parents for help. That's student attendance. West Middle's “chronic absentee rate” was 46 percent in the 2017-18 school year. Chronic is defined as at least 4 missed schools days in a month or 10 in a year.
“We can't teach them if they're not here,” Sims said.
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