school board story- sugden photo 11.20.jpg

Challis High School Counselor Angela Sugden discussed ways the district can help students fare better on standardized tests with school board members last week. Challis students are underperforming in nearly all subjects on standardized tests and she suggested it might be because students don't have access to the proper study materials. Board Chairman Brett Plummer is in the back. 

Challis High School Counselor Angela Sugden told school board members the district’s students are underperforming on standardized test and offered solutions at the board’s Nov. 13 meeting.

Sugden made a presentation that showed how high school students have performed on the ACT, PSAT, SAT and ISAT. Their proficiency scores were compared to state and national percentages. Except for a few subjects, students in Challis schools were below the state and national averages, she said. In some instances, such at the graduating class of 2021’s seventh grade math ISAT scores, the difference was by a wide margin.

In that test 46 percent of seventh-grade students in Idaho met proficiency levels in math. In Challis, 4 percent of students met proficiency levels.

Superintendent Lani Rembelski gave similar information to board members about test results at the elementary school. She said 37 percent of kindergartners in the district were meeting proficiency levels in reading, which is below the state level of 42 percent.

Board members offered several suggestions for ways to improve proficiency levels. Trish Farr suggested the district find a way to incentivize kids into taking the tests more seriously.

“We’ve got to give these kids a reason to take the tests and do well on them,” Farr said. “We should encourage them to take practice tests and study.”

Sugden agreed with Farr and said one way to improve scores on the SAT is to require students to take the PSAT. The PSAT is designed to be harder than the regular standardized test with the idea being it will show students where to focus. The PSAT is paid for by the state and does not reflect a student’s eligibility for college education.

Another suggestion Sugden made to improve test scores, particularly on the ACT, is to make sure students are taking the right courses. The ACT tests students on advanced math, a subject Sugden said not enough students are currently taking.

“Math is usually what drives down scores in this district,” Sugden said.

The overall message of Sugden’s presentation was school administrators need to increase access to standardized tests and preparatory material. She said students aren’t taking opt-in tests like the ACT because they don’t have an incentive or they don’t know it’s an option. She suggested increased access to study materials, like prep tests, will raise students’ confidence in core subjects, which in turn will raise test scores.

“I know the more you test, the better you test,” Sugden said.