Gillette’s Paintbrush Elementary receives top grade on WDE school accountability assessment

Paintbrush Elementary School, at 1001 W. Lakeway Road, is "exceeding expectations" on state assessments. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Paintbrush Elementary, which is at 1001 W. Lakeway Road in Gillette, excelled in the 2021-2022 school year, according to a state assessment.

The Wyoming Department of Education released Sept. 14 its Accountability in Education Act School Performance Ratings for the past school year. Paintbrush is performing better on the assessment than it did before the pandemic.

In Wyoming, all schools receive one of the following school performance ratings: Exceeding Expectations, Meeting Expectations, Partially Meeting Expectations or Not Meeting Expectations. School performance indicators include growth based on the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress as well as academic achievement and equity. At the high school level, indicators also include post-secondary readiness and graduation rates.

Students in grades 3 through 10 took the tests for math and ELA. Students in grades 3, 5, 7, and 9 students also took writing tests, while students in grades 4, 8, and 10 took science tests. The 2022 science test results were the first to assess the 2016 Science Standards and the 2018 Science Extended Standards.

Before the pandemic, Paintbrush Elementary was meeting expectations. It’s now the only school in Campbell County School District that’s exceeding expectations, according to state assessments. Due to the COVID pandemic, WAEA School Performance Ratings and ESSA School Identifications were not calculated for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years.

Paintbrush Principal Jenni Gilson said that it’s not just one thing that allows the school to reach the exceeding expectations mark. The school prides itself on its school culture, and she believes every staff member works hard to serve students, she said.

“We strive to meet kids where they’re at and provide intervention and enrichment opportunities for them,” she said.

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Gilson said she believes staff efforts have had a cumulative effect over the years. She said the school is defining its professional learning community process with teachers and using student data to inform instructional practices.

She said the school community also enjoys recognizing students for excellence.

Every Friday, classroom teachers each submit the name of one student in their classes to be a “Pirate of the Week,” in honor of their school mascot, she said. The students exemplify the school’s rules: “be safe,” “be respectful” and “be responsible.” Other school staff can tell a student’s classroom teacher if they believe the student should receive recognition. The school announces the selected students’ names via the school intercom at the end of the day on Friday and posts their names on a bulletin board. At the end of each school year quarter, the students whose names are on the board receive a certificate and are invited to a pizza party.

She said she likes to visit classrooms and support students and teachers by staying involved. Gilson used to be a classroom teacher and instructional facilitator for the district, said she enjoys running team-building activities with staff and students throughout the school year to build a positive school culture.

For example, the school does a trivia question game called “Caller 10 at 10,” where the 10th classroom to call her office gets prizes. Teachers can also win prizes by completing a series of activities, of both district requirements and positive actions, like making a positive parent phone call or sending an email to compliment a coworker.

The school is planning a schoolwide celebration to recognize students in October for their achievements on the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress.

“At the end of the day, [students are] the ones that put in the work on that test,” she said. “Teachers do the work to get them ready and prepare them by their quality teaching.”

While only students in third through sixth grades take the test, it’s a schoolwide effort, she said. Classroom teachers of younger students must establish the foundation of education that allows students to succeed as they grow.

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See Paintbrush test scores from 2018-2019, 2020-2021 and 2021-2022.

Gilson said that other district schools also likely have similar traditions that they tailor to fit their schools and involvement from administration.

County 17 is reaching out to the two schools in Campbell County School District that were rated as “Not Meeting Expectations” and intends to write about how those schools are overcoming challenges. All other schools in the district are meeting expectations or partially meeting expectations, according to the 2021-2022 state assessment.

Campbell County School District Superintendent Alex Ayers present the district’s five-year strategic plan update to the school board Aug. 23. Goals for improving student achievement are that students will demonstrate proficiency or growth as measured by the district assessment system, district grade levels will exceed the state average in
content areas measured by the Wyoming state assessment and the district graduation rate will exceed the state graduation rate.

How schools across Wyoming performed

The state reported that 49% of traditional schools and 57% of alternative schools met or exceeded expectations for the 2021-2022 school year.

Compared with 2018-2019, half of the state’s traditional schools maintained their level of school performance, 20% increased their school performance rating and 30% performed at a lower level in the 2021-2022 school year. Schools with fewer than 10 students on the achievement and growth indicators in grades 3 to 8 or high school do not receive school performance ratings.

Schools must have at least 10 students on the Achievement and Growth indicators in order to receive a school performance rating. (Wyoming Department of Education)

According to federal government accountability standards, 20 Wyoming schools need Comprehensive Support and Improvement. These Title I schools perform among the lowest in the state or have graduation rates below 67%. Thirty two Wyoming schools need Targeted Support and Improvement. They’re schools at which a specific group of students isn’t performing well. Finally, 16 schools need Additional Targeted Support and Improvement since a specific group of students at the school is chronically not performing well.