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Only Half of Montana Grade School Students Proficient in English, Math Scores Are Worse

Photo courtesy of Jon King
Photo courtesy of Jon King

The 2016-17 Smarter Balanced test results are out for Montana elementary and middle school students, and while Missoula County does better than the state average, there is a lot of variance at local elementary and middle schools.

The Smarter Balanced tests assess students in Math and English Language Arts, and by both measures about half of Montana students are failing to reach proficiency. In Math, just 41.2 percent of Montana elementary and middle school students are proficient, while in English Language Arts 50.3 percent are proficient.

The picture gets a little better at the local level here in Missoula where the average math proficiency is 52.1 percent and the average English Language Arts proficiency is at 60.8 percent.

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A quick note before we dive into the numbers here, “proficiency” means that a child has met the state standards for their grade level for a type of task (fifth graders should understand multiplication, for example). There are actually four performance levels: Advanced, Proficient, Nearing Proficient, and Novice. For this article I have combined both the advanced and proficient scores for a better understanding of which schools have mastered the basics.

Smarter Balanced Test Montana Math Results

In Missoula, when it comes to proficiency in mathematics, Cold Springs elementary led the pack with 71.4 percent proficiency, followed by Hawthorne (66.1%), Chief Charlo (64.9%), Lewis & Clark (62.3%), Paxson (55.9%) Rattlesnake Elementary (47.4%), Hellgate Elementary (44.8%), Russell School (42.5%), Lowell School (42.5%) and finally Franklin School, where only 33 percent of students were proficient in math.

The scores were closer for area middle schools with Washington Middle School pulling the highest proficiency in math at 54%, followed by Hellgate Middle School (48.2%),  C.S. Porter Middle School (44.6%). Meadow Hill Middle School came in last at 38.6 percent.

Smarter Balanced Test Montana ELA Results

Overall the scores were slightly better in English Language Arts at the elementary level, Cold Springs once again takes the cake for Missoula elementary schools with 78.8 percent proficiency, followed by Chief Charlo (74%), Lewis & Clark (73.5%), Hawthorne (63.2%), Rattlesnake Elementary (62%), Paxson (61.9%), Hellgate Elementary (60.4%),  Russell School (57%), Lowell School (53.1%), and finally Franklin, once again in last, with 35.2% percent proficiency.

Middle schools scores were much closer English Language Arts. Washington Middle School leads again, getting a proficiency level of 65.3 percent. Hellgate Middle School was at 54.4 percent followed by C.S. Porter at 54.8 percent and finally Meadowhill at 53.4 percent.

MCPS Superintendent Mark Thane said there were a number of signs of improvement in the Missoula scores over last year’s test results. Although he was happy to see that Missoula outperformed the Montana average, he said “we are not satisfied with those numbers” and said work is underway to examine the data and local teaching methods to help drive better results.

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