Coding Class

Hyalite Elementary School robotics coach Heather Watson instructs a class of third-graders at Hyalite Elementary on how to use their assigned Sphero, a programmable robot, using iPads in the file photograph from December 2017.

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Bozeman’s elementary and middle school students improved slightly in math and English on the state’s 2019 standardized tests, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

More than 3,100 Bozeman elementary and middle school students in grades three to eight took the tests. The number of kids scoring advanced or proficient increased in English language arts from last year, from 69.7% to 70.1%.

In math, the number of Bozeman students scoring advanced or proficient (at grade level or higher) increased from last year’s 58.7% to 61.3%.

Bozeman students typically do significantly better than Montana’s statewide averages and did so again in 2019. Standardized test scores usually track family income and education.

Statewide, elementary students in grades three to five slipped slightly in English (from 50.5% to 49.8% scoring advanced or proficient). But these younger students improved slightly in math (from 44.4% to 44.7%).

In middle-school grades six to eight, Montana students improved slightly in both English (from 50.1% to 50.3%) and math (from 38.5% to 39.0%).

The state Office of Public Instruction released the results with a statement from Elsie Arntzen, state superintendent of public instruction, who said OPI is committed to working with schools to improve student achievement.

“While one test does not represent a student’s full potential, these results do show where we can start supporting improvement,” Arntzen said.

Montana uses the Smarter Balanced Assessment tests to meet requirements of the federal education law, Every Student Succeeds Act. Under that law, Montana is starting its second year of “comprehensive and targeted support” for schools with high numbers of underperforming students in such categories as American Indian, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged and special education students.

Bozeman High School is listed as needing “targeted” help because special education students have a graduation rate of less than 67%.

While Bozeman’s elementary and middle students scored higher than the state averages, there were still wide differences between schools. These often track differences in income, as measured by numbers of students qualifying for free and reduced price lunches.

At the two middle schools, Chief Joseph students improved this year, closing most of the gap with Sacajawea students. In English, Chief Joseph students improved to 68.1% advanced or proficient, while Sacajawea students slipped slightly to 71.1%. That narrowed the gap between the schools from 8.9 points to 3 points.

In math, both middle schools improved, but Chief Joseph improved more, with 53.3% scoring well compared to 54.7% at Sacajawea, narrowing that gap to 1.4 points.

In Bozeman’s eight elementary schools, there was a wider range of scores. Morning Star had the highest numbers, with 86.3% advanced or proficient in English and 84.3% in math.

Schools showing improvement from last year in English were Chief Joseph, Hyalite and Whittier. In math, Chief Joseph, Sacajawea, Hyalite, Longfellow, Meadowlark and Morning Star all showed improvement.

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

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