GOLDEN VALLEY – Mike McCarthy has plenty of reason to smile following release of Stanford 9 test results by the Arizona Department of Education.
McCarthy is principal of Eagle Academy, a charter school with a curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Eagle children registered gains in 15 of 21 combination grade and subject levels, compared with results from the spring of 2003.
"We put in new programs from the third through sixth grades, changed how we teach a little, and approached those grades with the idea of teaching, getting questions from the kids and re-teaching if they don't understand," McCarthy said.
"We're slowing down a little and making sure everyone is grasping the material and doing daily warm-ups with test-type questions.
It has made a big difference in those grades."
Stanford 9 is a norm-referenced test given nationwide to elementary and middle school children in grades two and up.
It focuses on language, reading and math skills.
Scores are given in percentiles.
A 50th percentile score indicates children have performed about average with their peers.
A score of 60 means children performed better than 60 percent of other pupils in that subject and at that grade level.
The accompanying chart shows how Eagle pupils performed this year.
In order to determine progress made by children, the Miner tracks how pupils did from one year to the next on the test.
For example, did third-graders in 2003 post higher scores as fourth-graders in 2004?
Grades two through eight in 2003 were tracked with grades three through nine for 2004 at Eagle.
All seven-grade levels made progress in reading, led by a 16-point gain by fifth-graders.
Third-graders and eighth-graders also made significant jumps of 13 points apiece.
"We added more reading across the curriculum," McCarthy said.
"We try to read every day and in class, whether it's math or social studies, we encourage reading."
Fifth-graders also led the way in math with a 17-point gain on scores posted as fourth-graders in 2003.
A 12-point rise in scores also was noted among third-graders.
Just two classes lost ground in math.
Seventh-graders slipped seven points and ninth- graders 18 points.
Language was the subject area with the widest disparity in scores.
Third-graders doubled their scores, going from 32 as second-graders in 2003 to 64 this past spring.
Other huge gains registered included 20 points by seventh-graders and 18 points for fifth-graders.
Ninth- and eighth-graders fell slightly, one point and five points, respectively, in language skills.
The biggest fall was 14 points among sixth-graders.
"There may be an anomaly (among sixth-graders)," McCarthy said.
"Someone didn't try hard on the test and some issues can affect the score.
But our staff did an incredible job.
They're working hard to make sure students get the education they deserve."
McCarthy said the emphasis this year will be on math skills, but he does not expect any "backsliding" in other subject areas.
"One thing we want to do is more writing across the curriculum on a daily basis," McCarthy said.