Weekly Letter (Nov 3, 2014)

Dear Parents and Students,

 I have just spent the better part of a weekend studying the latest IOWA Test results. As noted in previous letters, the IOWAs are a standardized test used across the nation and by every Catholic elementary school west of the Rocky Mountains. They provide a snap shot of student skills in a wide variety of areas across the curriculum. It is my habit to look at these scores from three different perspectives. First I look at the school (grades 2 – 8 are tested) as a whole. Then I look at each class. Finally I take notes on the scores of each individual who took the test. This is time consuming, but I believe that studying test scores over the years truly helps the faculty to diagnose the strengths and needs of each class and each student. This helps us to focus our curriculum for the students we work with each day.

 So let me share some insights from the IOWA Tests with you. First of all, even though every subtest is important, the “big four” are Reading, Language Arts, Math and Composite. These four tests represent the heart of an elementary school education. That isn’t just my opinion either; those are the scores every high school asks for when our eighth graders apply.

 You will find attached to this email a rather large set of graphs that give a vivid picture of the school scores in each of those areas over the last thirteen years (since the Archdiocese began administering the IOWA Test of Basic Skills). The black line on the far left shows the average score on this test across the nation as 50%ile. The various colored lines to the right of the black line show Star’s school-wide scores from the 2002-03 school year through this year (2014-15). Please note that each and every one of those lines is from 15 to 32 percentile points higher than the national average.  These are scores we are very proud of. They represent the hard work of parents, students, and teachers.

 Star’s Reading score was up 2% over last year and we’ve only gotten a higher score in Reading twice in the last thirteen years! In fact, our average Reading score over the last five years is higher than any Reading scores in the first eight years of IOWA Tests!

 In Language Arts our school-wide average was up 3% and is tied with our best scores over the years. Again, if you isolate the last five years of scores, our average is higher than any Language Arts scores in the first eight years of IOWA Tests!

 Our Math scores jumped up 4% and we’ve only gotten a higher score in Math twice over the last thirteen years. This indicates that the new Common Core math is not presenting a problem to our students in general. The standard got tougher, so did our kids!

 Finally, our Composite Average jumped 5% and is the second highest Composite score over the last thirteen years! And again, if you isolate the last five years of Composite scores, our average is higher than any Composite scores in the first eight years of IOWA Tests!

 On a class level, there is also exciting news to report. Every class average showed growth ranging from 3% to 20%, and averaging 8.7%. I was also pleased to see that Math growth surpassed that, ranging from 3% up to 25%, and averaging 13.7%. Students who scored in the lowest quartile last year, were able to raise their scores an amazing 13.29% across the board!

 Individual reports are not appropriate in this email so you’ll get them at Parent Teacher Conferences, but I do want to point out that 74 of our students (that’s 33% out of 192 tested) qualified for the Johns Hopkins Search For Talented Youth program by attaining scores of 95%ile or more in a total of 221 subtests! Yes, seventy-four students and two hundred twenty-one subtests!

 This certainly doesn’t seem like most of my weekly letters, there are way too many statistics, but as parents, teachers and especially students, we have great reasons to be proud of this year’s IOWA Test scores! Way to go guys!



Terrence Hanley

 PS Several people have asked me about our Science Test Scores. The numbers are as follows:

Grade              Grade Equivalent                    Difference


8th                    10.1                                         2 years I month ahead of grade level

7th                    9.1                                           2 years 1 month ahead

6th                    9.0                                           3 years ahead

5th                    8.4                                           3 years 4 months ahead

4th                    6.1                                           2 years 1 month ahead

3rd                    4.3                                           1 year 3 months ahead

2nd                    2.1                                           1 month ahead of grade level

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