Charter school boosts scores

SANDPOINT — The Forrest Bird Charter School is moving into the holidays after charting some improved standardized test scores in 2012.

A school focused on offering students a project-based learning environment, the staff has reevaluated its approach to standardized testing in the past year and achieved some strong growth statistics for their efforts.  According to principal Alan Millar, the school ranked 34th among all Idaho schools in growth on the Idaho Standards Achievement Test. That growth rating helped the Forrest Bird Charter School establish a four-star rating and full pay-for-performance bonuses for the staff.

“The biggest thing was that we had to establish a cultural shift at our school,” Millar said. “We had to have a change of heart and place more importance on the test.”

The trick, Millar added, was to accomplish that goal without falling into the oft-criticized approach of “teaching to the test.” They accomplished this primarily by establishing a positive testing environment and circumstances throughout the day. Teachers made sure that their students had an opportunity to get some food in their stomachs and had the opportunity for breaks throughout the day.

If the data is any indication, those measures helped the school improve its test scores.

In sixth grade, 55.8 percent of students ranked as advanced in reading for 7.2-percent growth, while 63.5 placed similar numbers in mathematics at 20.6-percent growth.

In language usage, 26.4 percent of sixth-graders were advanced, while 49.1 percent were proficient, adding up to 20.3 percent in growth.

Seventh-graders at the charter school tested with 54.2 percent advanced in reading, 49.2 percent advanced in mathematics and 30 percent advanced in language usage, yielding 9.6 percent, 14.4 percent and 11.7 percent in growth.

The trend continued in the eighth grade.

Of the school’s students, 74 percent were advanced in reading, 52.7 percent in mathematics and 31.5 percent in language usage, which figured to 3 percent, 3.2 percent and 24.8 percent in growth.

Finally, 10th-graders 47.4 percent were advanced in reading while 26.3 percent were advanced in math, charting 4.7-percent and 4.4-percent growth. Meanwhile, 15.4 percent were advanced in language usage, while 56.4 percent were proficient — leading to 14.2-percent growth.

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