Area school districts are analyzing the results of the 2011-12 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.
One thing each of the three school districts on this side of Waupaca County learned is that a high percentage of their students again scored above the state in the examination.
Last fall, students in third through eighth grade and tenth grade took the WKCE in reading and math.
In addition, students in fourth, eighth and tenth grades took assessments in language arts, science and social studies.
Last week, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released the 2011-12 results.
Those results show that in math, 78 percent of all Wisconsin students scored proficient or advanced, while on the reading assessment, 81.9 percent scored proficient or advanced.
A year ago, those numbers were 77.2 percent and 83 percent respectively.
The WKCE measures the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards and is administered in the fall to all students enrolled in Wisconsin public schools.
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.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 required each state to establish a timeline for adequate yearly progress.
Since then, schools and school districts have seen those expected thresholds increase each school year, with 100 percent proficiency expected in 2014.
For this school year, a school or school district was to achieve a proficiency index of 87 percent in reading and 79 percent in math.
Wisconsin is among the states that has requested a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to meet the objectives.
The state is in the process of transitioning to the Common Core Standards and from using the WKCE as an assessment test to using the SMARTER Balanced Assessment.
Wisconsin is scheduled to begin using that new assessment in the 2014-15 school year. Students in third through eighth grade will be assessed, with the one change being that juniors will be tested, not sophomores.
In the Waupaca School District, 88.7 percent of the students were advanced or proficient in reading, 76 percent were in language arts, 84.4 percent were in math, 84.7 percent were in science and 84.4 percent were in social studies.
In the 2010-11 school year, 89.6 percent were advanced or proficient in reading, 73.3 percent were in language arts, 85.9 percent were in math, 82.1 percent were in science and 88.6 percent were in social studies.
“We try to desegregate the data as best as we can,” said District Administrator David Poeschl.
The Waupaca School District looks at how the results compare to the state average and to the adequate yearly progress benchmarks.
“We’ve been involved in the WKCE a number of years,” he said. “We know what they are asking of us and what we’re trying to teach, so when the results come out, there are no surprises. Because we’re asked to teach what they’re going to be tested on, we have a good idea of how we’re doing already.”
Susan Davenport, the district’s director of instruction, said among the numbers that they look at are how the economically disadvantaged students did on the assessment.
“We’re relatively pleased with the numbers in advanced and proficient. They continue to stay close to the non-economically disadvantaged, but we will continue keeping an eye on the students in minimal and basic,” she said.
Poeschl said about 40 percent of the school district’s students are receiving free or reduced lunch. Davenport said, “We have been closing the gaps as a district. We want the distribution of proficient to be equal.”
The focus of staff development in the Waupaca School District has been on how to teach students in different ways.
Like other school districts in the state, Waupaca’s district is transitioning into the Common Core standards.
“The waiver the DPI (state Department of Public Instruction) wrote is to get out from under WKCE and transition into Common Core,” Poeschl said.
He said that when the No Child Left Behind Act was passed, many knew the flaw was expecting all students to be proficient and advanced by 2014.
“It did provide motivation and a way of measuring and looking at instruction,” he said. “There was value in the process.”
There have been in-service days for the school district’s teachers about the Common Core Standards.
Davenport said that at the elementary level, areas of emphasis have been identified for each grade. At the secondary level, teaching literacy will be applied to all subject areas.
Poeschl said a different type of reading is necessary in a math class versus a social studies class.
The district has looked at the initial drafts of the SMARTER Balanced Assessment and expects to receive more immediate feedback from it since the assessment is expected to have an online component.
Both Poeschl and Davenport have experienced many changes in education.
In regard to the WKCE, Poeschl said, “We know where are kids’ strengths are and where our kids’ weaknesses are. WKCE documents what the teachers know.”
It is one way to assess how students are doing.
Davenport said how a student is doing today is different than where that same student was last fall.
Poeschl said they know children develop at different rates. “We welcome the transition to the Common Core,” he said.
In the I-S School District, 90.9 percent of the students were advanced or proficient in reading, 78.1 percent were in language arts, 86.8 percent were in math, 91.3 percent were in science and 86.2 percent were in social studies.
In the 2010-11 school year, 94.3 percent of I-S students were advanced or proficient in reading, 79.1 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.
“I think it’s kind of a normal variance,” District Administrator Joe Price said of how the most recent results compare to those of the previous school year.
He said the WKCE was never meant to be a test of individual students.
“It was meant to be more of a test of a school’s progress, an evaluation of a school district’s progress,” Price said.
The I-S School District has always looked at the results and how they tie to its curriculum, looking to see if there are any gaps, he said.
“Now, we need to be looking at the Common Core Standards and moving in that direction,” Price said.
The SMARTER Balanced Assessment has a higher reading standard, he said.
“There’s a big emphasis on more nonfiction reading and more technical reading in some subject areas,” Price said. “There’s the idea that you have to continue developing reading and that there are different types of reading and writing that you do in science versus social studies.”
The school district does a district-wide writing assessment twice a year.
The emphasis has been on nonfiction writing in particular, because the district wants its students to be able to express themselves clearly, he said.
The highest score on the writing portion of the ACT test is 12, and in both the classes of 2010 and 2011, the district had one student score a 9 and one score a 10 in each of those years.
“For the Class of 2012, we already have four with a 10 and four with a 9,” Price said. “I find that encouraging.”
The I-S School District also continues to use the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment, which is taken on a computer, allowing students that answer a question correctly to move on to a new question.
The SMARTER Balanced Assessment will also be taken on a computer.
“The things I’ve seen so far are really challenging,” Price said of the assessment. “Some parts of the test may take place over several days and will be more in-depth, and there will be more real-world problems, like figuring out what formulas to use and apply.”
Students learn how to measure in math class but have to understand it enough to apply that knowledge in other classes and outside of school, he said.
The goal will be to increase students’ ability to reason and problem solve.
“You have to figure out where students are at and how to get them to the next level,” Price said. “It’s an amazing art to be a good teacher – and art and a science.”
In the Weyauwega-Fremont School District, 91.7 percent of the students were advanced or proficient in reading, 81.8 percent were in language arts, 89.7 percent were in math, 84.6 percent were in science and 90.7 percent were in social studies.
In the 2010-11 school year, 91.4 percent 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.
“I’m pleased with the effort and the results. It gives credit for a lot of the initiatives and programs we have in place. One of the end results is showing proficiency in these tests,” said District Administrator Scott Bleck.
The 2011-12 results show that 100 percent of the district’s third-grade students were advanced or proficient in math and 100 percent of its fourth-grade students were advanced or proficient in social studies.
In the past year, the school district saw both its middle school and Fremont Elementary recognized with an award of excellence and a Blue Ribbon School Award respectively.
“Coming off the Blue Ribbon – from that great success and ability – and they achieved even greater success. It includes the special education, minority and disadvantaged students, and we were still able to achieve that,” said Kandi Martin, who is the district’s director of pupil services and curriculum.
Bleck calls the WKCE results one snapshot and assessment of a student’s ability.
“It does give positive feedback,” he said. “Students are being held accountable.”
He said there is always a need for improvement.
Martin said the departments analyze the data to see where that is necessary. That happened last week at the secondary level, she said.
In addition to the WKCE, the W-F district – like the I-S and Waupaca school districts – has students take the MAP assessment.
Students in third through ninth grade do that assessment three times a year, so the district can track the progress of students.
For the last two years, the district has been working with its staff on transitioning to the new Common Core Standards and preparing for the SMARTER Balanced Assessment.
Martin said the W-F district is among the school districts that has volunteered to pilot the assessment in the 2013-14 school year.
That means students will take both the WKCE and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment that year, she said.
The SMARTER Balanced Assessment will take place in the spring, with high school juniors taking it.
Bleck said it will be a potential placement tool for college, which may be more of an incentive for the students taking it. Sophomores take the WKCE test.
Martin said, “We’ve been working on the Common Core Standards for two years. The goal at the elementary level is next school year, we will be implementing them. At the secondary level, the reading and math component will be implemented next school year. The science and social studies – we’re still waiting for the release of the standards.”
Bleck said the district’s WKCE results are not the product one person or a group of people.
“It is a district-wide effort to demonstrate accountability. That is what we’re here for,” he said.