The results are in, and a high percentage of area students scored above the state average in the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.
Last fall, students in third through eighth grades and 10th grade took the WKCE or the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities in reading and math. In addition, students in fourth, eighth and 10th grades took assessments in language arts, science and social studies.
Last week, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released the 2010-11 results.
In math, 77.2 percent of all Wisconsin students scored proficient or advanced, while on the reading assessment, 83 percent scored proficient or advanced.
Students are identified as advanced, proficient, basic or minimal, and by federal law, schools and school districts must reach a particular threshold of students achieving advanced or proficient.
This school year, a school or district was to achieve a proficiency index of 80.5 percent in reading and 68.5 percent in math.
Each of the three area school districts passed those benchmarks.
In the Waupaca School District, 89.6 percent of the students were advanced or proficient in reading, 73.3 percent were in language arts, 85.8 percent were in math, 82.1 percent were in science and 88.6 percent were in social studies.
In the 2009-10 school year, 88.4 percent were advanced or proficient in reading, 83.3 percent were in language arts, 85.5 percent were in math, 88.7 percent were in science and 91.4 percent were in social studies.
“I encourage people to not judge a district by one aggregate score. That’s not the intent of this test,” said district Administrator David Poeschl. “The intent is to allow us to take a look at all the different areas – grade level, socioeconomic status, gender, disabilities – all the different ways we can break that data down. That is what I see as the value of these tests.”
For example, the district has made great strides is focusing on economically disadvantaged students, he said.
Director of instruction Susan Davenport said the addition of Title I math at the elementary level has helped, and that at the elementary level, a variety of assessments are used.
The Waupaca School District is among the districts in the state that use the MAP test.
“We administer reading and math in K-6 and then selected students in 7, 8 and 9,” she said.
The assessment takes place in the fall and spring.
“This year, we opened a winter window as well,” Davenport said. “Selected 7, 8 and 9 students that tested in the fall also took it in the winter, as well as sixth-graders.”
What the administrators like about MAP is that it specifically assesses what students know.
Poeschl is encouraged that the state is headed in the direction of having this type of test. Like the MAP assessment, students would take the test on a computer. The state’s test would incorporate the state’s common core standards.
“The other part I like about MAP is that we can do it the beginning of the year and at the end of the year to measure a student’s progress,” he said. “We can also measure the value of certain programs, as well. For example, the single-gender classes (at the sixth-grade level), Title I programs and our exceptional education population.”
With WKCE and MAP, the district can look at a number of different populations and see how they are doing.
“We noticed an increase in the elementary scores for proficient and advanced (in reading), and that is a direct correlation to our reading specialist,” Davenport said.
Poeschl said the district can use the WKCE and MAP results to look in detail at questions answered incorrectly by a high number of students at a particular grade level.
Waupaca also does writing assessments. Students in grades K-5 and seventh and ninth grade do them.
“We encourage writing across the curriculum – not just in English,” he said. “A number of teachers assess each writing sample.”
In the Weyauwega-Fremont School District, 91.4 percent of the students were advanced or proficient in reading, 77.3 percent were in language arts, 89 percent were in math, 88.4 percent were in science and 91.5 percent were in social studies.
In the 2009-10 school year, 89.9 percent were advanced or proficient in reading, 72.8 percent were in language arts, 87.2 percent were in math, 84.4 percent were in science and 88.3 percent were in social studies.
District Administrator Scott Bleck said WKCE results are a way for the state to see where districts are performing.
“It is a snapshot of a student’s ability,” he said. “There are many assessments.”
Kandi Martin is the district’s director of pupil services and curriculum, and she said the WKCE results will be the topic of an in-service training. “We will show the areas where we are doing well but also where we can improve,” she said.
Bleck said that people often compare the results from one year to another when they should really look at how students progress from grade to grade.
“Instructionally, we are doing the same curriculum, but we are dealing with different students,” he said. “We like to look at math in sixth grade and then math in seventh. Are they maintaining?”
Bleck said the district’s approach will be to look at its successes and also where it can improve.
Martin said that in a few years, the WKCE test will be replaced with a different test.
“We’re already preparing for that,” she said. “We’re adopting the new common core standards. We’ve been training all year on that, so by the time the new test is in place, the teachers will already be teaching that new curriculum.”
Bleck said one of the challenges related to standardized testing is maintaining enthusiasm and holding students accountable at all grade levels.
“As a district, we look at all avenues,” he said.
Their goal is to get results that show the true knowledge base and abilities of the W-F students, Bleck said.
Martin said the individual results are used to identify students who do need support.
Bleck said it is a community effort to help students give their best effort when they take such tests.
At the elementary level, WKCE pep rallies are held. On testing days, students often receive notes of encouragement from their parents. The reward for elementary students, upon completion of the test, was popcorn, juice and a movie.
Middle school students had pizza and a dance.
There was yet another incentive at the high school level. The names of all the students who had perfect attendance during the testing days were put into a drawing. The winner received an iPod.
In addition, the sophomores who scored proficient or advanced get their names put in a drawing for such things as T-shirts, parking passes and gift cards.
“We had an excellent year,” Martin said.
In the I-S School District, 94.3 percent of the students were advanced or proficient in reading, 79.2 percent were in language arts, 88.9 percent were in math, 89.3 percent were in science and 94.6 percent were in social studies.
In the 2009-10 school year, 87.8 percent of I-S students were advanced or proficient in reading, 79.7 percent were in language arts, 84.9 percent were in math, 86.7 percent were in science and 93.7 percent were in social studies.
“We’re pretty happy with the results,” said district Administrator Joe Price. “We don’t try to improve scores. We try to improve achievement.”
He said WKCE is just one measure of student achievement.
The district also uses the Measures of Academic Progress and writing assessments. Price said the district has been using the MAP assessment for about eight years. Students in third through seventh grade do the assessment in all subject areas, while eighth-grade students do the assessment in science and math. They take the test in the spring and again in the fall. Some students are also selected to do the assessment in the winter.
Price describes MAP as an adaptive test. Students take the test on a computer. When they answer a question correctly, they move on to a new question, thus allowing teachers to get an understanding of students’ abilities.
“And, the beauty of that test is teachers also have the results the next morning,” he said.
Teachers are able to identify areas they need to work on, and the assessment also helps in identifying reading levels.
The third assessment in I-S is a districtwide writing assessment.
“We will pick a day and all students – K-12 – will stop what they are doing and do a writing prompt,” Price said.
He said that regardless of what students will do in the future, they need to have good writing skills.
“We also believe,” Price said, “that in the process of doing nonfiction writing, they have to think in-depth.”
Often, students have to write a persuasive essay. The writing assessment takes place in the fall and in the spring. Each paper is read and scored by at least two teachers.
“I’m very happy with how it’s progressed. When we first did it, it was very difficult for the teachers to score,” he said.
Price said they want all students, regardless of the subject area, to be writing in every class. “I think nonfiction writing is important and they should do it across the curriculum,” he said. “One thing the teachers found out is that they can do it, and they can really do well.”
Price said WKCE was developed mainly as a way to evaluate how a district’s math or reading program is doing.
The three tools the district uses offer broad assessments, but the district administrator says the best assessments are how students do on individual homework and on finished products.
He would never replace evaluating students in those ways with an evaluation based on a standardized test.