Dear Parents and Friends of Blackwell:
Each spring Washington state students take the MSP, Measurements of Student Progress. The assessments are designed to test the state standards which are the core academic foundation for all schools in Washington. These assessments are used to evaluate district curriculums, school and individual student academic performance. It is an annual measure which provides feedback to examine how we are doing.
At Blackwell it is important for us to know our students have certain natural advantages which tend to make our state MSP scores higher than other schools. In general our students come to school well fed, loved and have books, travel and learning experiences. In other words, Blackwell students have many opportunities which support learning. Most Blackwell parents are educated themselves and they value education. Numerous Blackwell parents volunteer to tutor and work with students who might be struggling to read. These benefits are not true in all schools. Due to these various factors, Blackwell scores tend to be higher than many other schools.
It is important to remember the MSP is a statewide assessment which is intended to be the basic academic standards for students across the state. At Blackwell we reflect on MSP results to help determine individual students who need extra help. It is equally important for us to know which students have already mastered the state learning standards and extend the curriculum to make sure that every student is challenged by a stimulating academic curriculum.
As a result, Blackwell teachers meet throughout the year in small groups we call our PLC -- a Professional Learning Community. We have conversations about how to best meet the learning needs of individual students, how to organize and improve our grade level and how to improve the whole school. We use the MSP data, classroom grades, Classroom Based Assessments, and creative instructional practices to help struggling students, challenge those who have already mastered the standards and support the majority of our students who are learning at grade level. This really is the art of teaching.
On the 2010 MSP, we found our students continued to perform at very high levels in reading, writing and math at all grade levels. Even when we compare ourselves to schools with similar demographics and natural advantages, our students were performing at a very high level.
There were two subtests which led us to question what we can do to improve teaching and learning this year. First, grade three students did not do as well on the MSP Math test as we would have expected. Second, our fifth graders did not do as well on the MSP Science as we would like to see. As a result, we retooled our curriculum and how we provide instruction to develop a sound strategy to help the students who struggled on these two subtests in grades three and five.
· Grade 3 Math: This year we have a brand new math curriculum called “enVision Math” which addresses many of the math concerns we wanted to retool; Third grade teachers are focusing their improvement efforts by strategically and effectively implementing the new curriculum with the expectations that the new curriculum will have a positive effect on 2011 MSP Math performance. We will look very closely at the 2011 results to evaluate our progress in helping third grade students excel in math.
· Grade 5 Science: While students performed well on multiple-choice questions, they struggled on short answers. As a result, Grade 5 teachers developed a strategy to address these needs by using state released science questions to give students additional opportunities to write about science throughout the year. Students also learned to identify a strong science written response compared to a passable written response. We look forward to finding out how our fifth grade students perform on the MSP Science assessments when we get the results back the fall of 2011.
We do not teach to the test just to raise MSP scores. Our goal is to understand the state standards, implement the best curriculum and focus our energy on helping every student reach their academic potential. Blackwell teachers care about doing our very best to help every Blackwell student. We appreciate the wonderful students we get to work with and are committed to continually improving as we strive to "help every student reach their limitless potential."