Leaders at three Tulsa public school campuses credit staff efforts to support students beyond the basics as part of the reason for improved state test scores at their sites.
“As a team, we have been very committed to strengthening the climate, the culture and building a joyful school for all,” said Zarrow International School principal Denise Marquez. “Happy teachers mean happy students, and happy students learn better.”
Zarrow International School, 3613 S. Hudson Ave., was one of three Tulsa Public Schools elementary schools to meet or exceed the state average in all grades and subjects tested this spring as part of the test program Oklahoma School Board, which measures whether each public school student has met or exceeded state academic standards in reading and math in grades three through eight and again in grade 11. Fifth, eighth and 11th graders are also tested in science.
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In comparison, no TPS site reached this benchmark in 2021.
Along with crediting Zarrow’s faculty and community partners, Marquez said the school’s improved test scores were in part due to a concerted effort to support students not just academically with efforts targeted interventions, but also beyond the classroom, including through summer programs.
More than half of Zarrow students participated in on-campus programs in the summer of 2021.
“I’m super proud of where we are and what we’ve done,” Marquez said. “Looking at the data helps us know where we need to lean, add additional supports and move on.
“I tell my teachers all the time that they are fabulous and that we will certainly celebrate this achievement, but let’s also look at where we need to push a little more.”
Five miles northwest, Mayo Demonstration School, 1127 S. Columbia Ave., was another TPS site to meet or exceed the state average in all grades and subjects tested.
Mayo also had the highest single-subject proficiency rating in the district, with 60% of its fifth-grade students testing proficient or better in science.
Like Marquez, Mayo principal Michael Philippsen attributed the improved test scores to his school’s staff and, in large part, to their efforts to support and engage students.
“There’s a lot of intentionality around the whole child learning and building a strong community here,” he said. “I tell teachers all the time that if they have a really rich discussion in their morning meeting and the kids connect their experiences and parts of their identity to what they’ve learned or are about to learn, have those conversations.”
A Whole Child Approach also received partial credit for improving test scores at one of the district’s neighborhood schools. Along with Mayo and Zarrow, Lewis and Clark Elementary School is one of 25 TPS sites to have at least a grade after a double-digit increase from 2021 in the percentage of students tested proficient or better in a subject.
At Lewis and Clark, 737 S. Garnett Road, proficiency rates in grades three and six for both test subjects increased by at least 10 percentage points from a year ago. The school’s fifth-graders also showed single-digit improvements in math and science.
“Seeing these gains is encouraging,” Principal Lori Gregory said. “We work so hard, and seeing the fruits of our labor motivates us to keep going.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, East Tulsa Elementary School test scores were on the rise, with students showing improved scores in 2019 in all but one domain. State tests were not conducted in 2020.
However, like many Oklahoma schools, those gains were wiped out in 2021 by the pandemic, with Lewis and Clark students recording single-digit proficiency rates in third-grade math, third-grade English, science fourth grade and sixth grade. level math.
To help students recover both academically and socially from COVID-19, Gregory said, the school has implemented focused instruction in small groups throughout the day and, like their counterparts in Mayo and Zarrow , ensures that their students have additional social and emotional support, such as faculty-sponsored after-school clubs.
The school’s faculty has also stepped up its collaborative efforts, with teachers in subjects not included in the tests, such as art, music and gym, incorporating literacy and math concepts into their courses to help reinforce the material covered by their colleagues.
“We tried to teach our students what a growth mindset is,” Gregory said. “We don’t want them to close when things get tough. It’s a way to hold them accountable.
“Something may be difficult or they don’t understand it yet, but they will understand it if they keep practicing. All of our staff have embraced this, and our students believe they can do it all too.