When he was hired by the Lyle School Board in July of 2015, Superintendent Andrew Kelly shared three key elements essential to transforming Lyle from a district with two schools labeled as “failing” into a high performing district that exceeds local and statewide data comparisons. Those three elements – culture, strategies, and structure – are now firmly in place, Kelly says, and student academic achievement is showing the positive effects.
According to the recently released results of last spring’s Washington state assessments, Lyle School students continue to make gains and, in some categories, are exceeding the state average on these challenging assessments. In contrast, the nation and state’s test scores averages are little-changed over the previous year.
“We know what it takes to create a high-performing district,” Kelly explains. “Successful schools that meet the needs of all kids are like a three-legged stool; every element must be strong and firmly planted. This is true regardless of the school’s location or what its demographics are. When there is a healthy adult culture that believes in the potential of the students, and educators are working together using proven strategies and structures, student achievement will soar.”
Perhaps the most encouraging results were produced by Lyle’s fifth through seventh grade classes, who made substantial improvements in both math and English Language arts, as did third grade students in math. In addition, fifth-grade proficiency in science increased by 18 points and is nearly equal to that of the state. Overall, Lyle’s third through fifth grades increased their level of proficiency on the state test by 20 percentile points, going from 43 percent to 63 percent proficient.
These improvements are the cumulative result of work taking place at the school from the very earliest grade levels. The addition of pre-Kindergarten at Lyle School will further develop the foundational skills and knowledge among our youngest students that teachers at subsequent grade levels can build on, Kelly notes.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I’d like to extend our appreciation to staff for their contributions in supporting and enriching the education of our students,” Tria Bullard, Lyle’s Board of Education President, says. “We are thrilled with the progress that we continue to make as a district. As the mother of three students in Lyle, I am excited about the growth in student achievement and the possibilities that the future hold.”
“The growth we are experiencing in the middle grades is an affirmation in the skills and talents of our educators and the abilities of our kids,” Kelly adds. At the same time, he cautioned against reading too much into the scores: “A single test score doesn’t necessarily show mastery of a subject.”
The implementation of a new assessment system that will be used throughout the school year in Lyle will give teachers a clearer picture of each student’s specific strengths and weaknesses and allow the instructional team to focus additional attention where it will do the most good.
More work to do
At the high school level, Lyle’s scores declined overall, although the 10th grade math score remains within a percentile point of the state average and the 10th grade biology end-of-course assessment scores improved to 46 percent showing proficiency.
It’s not unusual for test scores to fluctuate, but overall growth over time is important. With additional options available to high school students in Lyle – access to Running Start classes, advanced placement courses, and career and technical education options, along with activities to expose students to post-secondary educational opportunities – Kelly anticipates secondary scores to ultimately reflect the higher level of rigor and achievement.
Grad rate is good news
Smarter Balanced testing was first administered in 2015. It set a higher bar than either of its predecessors, the WASL or the HSPE/MSP.
That’s why the state considers a district’s graduation rate another key indicator of school and districts’ performance. Despite the high bar posed by new state tests and graduation requirements, Lyle’s four-year graduation rate was 89.5 percent in 2017, compared to the state average of 79.1 percent. This was the highest graduation rate at the school in seven years.