Area school districts are analyzing the results of the 2012-13 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.
The results continue to be mixed for the three school districts on the east side of Waupaca County.
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.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction recently released the 2012-13 results.
Those results show that in math, 48.1 percent of students statewide were proficient or advanced, while on the reading assessment, 36.2 percent scored proficient or advanced.
The results also show that in language arts, 69.5 percent of students were proficient or advanced, with 76.6 percent proficient or advanced in science and 84.2 percent in social studies.
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.
The latest numbers reflect the new proficiency levels which were implemented statewide for the WKCE math and reading tests.
This school year, Wisconsin raised the benchmark scores needed for students to reach the proficient or advanced performance levels.
The new college and career readiness proficiency levels are based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
These more rigorous proficiency levels were used to report the percentage of students who were proficient or advanced for the current testing period.
Because of the benchmark score changes, WKCE results show a decline in the number of students considered to be proficient or advanced.
It does not reflect a change in the abilities of students – it reflects higher standards for students and schools.
For the students in grades four, eight and ten who also took assessments in language arts, science and social studies, those scores were reported on the proficiency levels which have been used since 2002.
Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, new mathematics and reading assessments for grades three through eight will be from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Dynamic Learning Maps Assessment Consortium.
If approved in the 2013-15 state budget, high school assessments will be from ACT and will include the EXPLORE, PLAN, ACT and WorkKeys assessments in grades nine, ten and eleven.
In the New London School District, 32.4 percent of the students were advanced or proficient in reading, 70.1 percent were in language arts, 48.1 percent were in math, 79.6 percent were in science and 85.0 percent were in social studies.
In the 2011-12 school year, 82.6 percent of the students were advanced or proficient in reading, 71.1 percent were in language arts, 81.8 percent were in math, 79.4 percent were in science and 85.6 were in social studies.
Kathy Gwidt, director of teaching and learning for the School District of New London said the benchmark change for reading and math “doesn’t reflect a change in the ability of the students, what the teachers are doing and what the schools are doing”
“The WKCE is just one piece of the puzzle. It is especially important to note that,” Gwidt said. “We still take this very seriously. It’s an important piece of the puzzle but yet we’re not going to change programs based on the WKCE. We take a look at Scantron, we take a look at day-to-day benchmarking assessment.
New this year, to help the district monitor the progress of every elementary school student, the district introduced “data walls” in every elementary school office.
“Literally every child has a card [listing] where they were on the WKCE, Scantron and benchmark assessment,” Gwidt said.
Gwidt said it’s important not to rely on just one piece of data when judging the progress of a student.
These different forms of assessment not only help the district find students who may be lagging behind, but it also helps find students who are advanced.
“If they’re advanced, we need to be just as worried about that child to make sure we are pushing that child forward,” Gwidt said.
In addition to helping monitor the progress of students, the district uses the WKCE test results to monitor programs in the district.
“What we find when we use these results, when we really analyze, they back up all the other data,” she said.
Even though the math benchmark was changed, Gwidt said that is an area where the district has shown tremendous growth. She said the district changed its math program four years ago, and it takes about four years to notice the results in the test scores.
“What we did in math was an entire shift in instruction. We’re teaching conceptually,” Gwidt said.
She said other districts will visit the New London District to see how their math program works.
“You know something is going in the right direction when that happens,” Gwidt said. “But that being said, we have to stay on top of our game to make sure that the kids continue to go in the direction they are.”
When the district changed its math program Gwidt said the biggest shift was figuring out what the students were capable of doing.
“The key to the success has been that the vigilance in maintaining fidelity to the program,” Gwidt said. “We’ll get moms and dads or grandmas and grandpas once in awhile going, ‘My child doesn’t like having to explain the answer. If they can do it in their head just let them.’ But for Common Core Standards, one of the practices is perseverance. One of the practices is communication. If they can’t do that at the younger grades they are not going to remember it and they won’t have that recall in eighth grade.”
In the Clintonville School District, 32.6 percent of the students were advanced or proficient in reading, 66.3 percent were in language arts, 33.9 percent were in math, 70.9 percent were in science and 80.5 were in social studies.
In the 2011-12 school year, 73.2 percent of the students were advanced or proficient in reading, 55.9 percent were in language arts, 67.1 percent were in math, 66.8 percent were in science and 71.8 were in social studies.
“Last year across the board our scores in Clintonville were not good, we were not at the state average anywhere,” said Chris Van Hoof, director of instruction for the School District of Clintonville.
Van Hoof said this year’s numbers have improved over last year.
“I am happy to say that we have some positive trends,” Van Hoof said. “There are some things that are definitely moving in the right direction. We still have room for improvement. There are classes where we definitely have closed the gap between our average and the state average. And there are others where we haven’t.”
Getting students to do their best on the test is part of the challenge.
“One of the things I talked to the [school] board about at the time, especially for our 10th grade scores was that these kids could do better [but] they don’t care about the results,” Van Hoof said. “They don’t have any reason to care about this test.”
To combat that issue, the district allowed high school students who had to take the test, to test out of their semester final if they showed a significant improvement or scored proficient or advanced under the new National Assessment of Education Progress cut scores, which is difficult to do.
“It made a huge difference when they had skin in the game,” Van Hoof said.
Van Hoof said middle school students were informed about the importance of doing well on the test.
“We’re still struggling with what it would be like in the middle school because they don’t have final exams, but we know that getting them to buy in makes a difference,” Van Hoof said.
As is the case in other districts, Van Hoof said the WKCE test results are just one “tiny” piece of the puzzle. It also doesn’t help with instruction because the test is given in the fall and the results aren’t received until the spring.
“By the time we look at these results and see what it means for kids, those kids are practically out the door and on to another classroom,” Van Hoof said. “The other problem is, when it’s a fall test, you’re the sixth grade teacher looking at sixth grade results, which is really a reflection of fifth grade curriculum.”
The district uses MAPS testing for reading and math, which Van Hoof said provides more immediate results.
“We use those along with teacher recommendation, along with WKCE results from the year before to see who needs an intervention in math, who needs an intervention in reading,” Van Hoof said.
Van Hoof said the WKCE test results are used by the district more for curriculum and program planning more than they are for individual student instruction. For example, if math scores are consistently low in grades five, six and seven, then the district knows it has a math curriculum problem.
“It’s not unique to a specific teacher. WKCE is probably good for that,” Van Hoof said.
The poverty rate in the district is still a problem, Van Hoof said, but it’s not an excuse.
“It makes it more difficult but we have to figure it out,” she said.
Obtaining as much information as possible is a key factor.
“We talk about triangulating the data which is whenever possible finding three different pieces of data to say, ‘What do we know about this kid?,'” Van Hoof said. “Find the three most recent pieces of data. When all three match it’s really easy. It’s when they don’t match that it gets a little more complicated. That’s when the teacher becomes really important.”
In the Manawa School District, 31.7 percent of the students were advanced or proficient in reading, 69.6 percent were in language arts, 37.0 percent were in math, 83.1 percent were in science and 84.5 were in social studies.
In the 2011-12 school year, 86.7 percent of the students were advanced or proficient in reading, 69.4 percent were in language arts, 77.4 percent were in math, 87.3 percent were in science and 89.5 were in social studies.
“I didn’t think they would drop that much,” said Karl Morrin, principal of Little Wolf High School in Manawa. “We’re going to address it and we’re going to do whatever we can to fix it.”
Morrin said he is planning on organizing a day-long retreat in the summer involving teachers from all grade levels.
“We’re going to dig deeper and find out what specific things the students in Manawa are missing,” Morrin said. “Then we will set up goals.”
Promoting to students and parents how important the WKCE test scores are needs to be improved, Morrin said.
“The bottom line is I think we need to do a better job of promoting how these tests are important to the kids and getting them prepared,” Morrin said.
The WKCE test results are just one of the things used to monitor the progress of students.
“It is one piece of the puzzle, but it’s still an important piece because this is what the state bases our school report card on,” Morrin said. “I feel we are hitting a lot of good things in our building and I think we do a good job of educating our kids, but we have to do a better job of this to get them prepared for this test.”
The district also uses STAR testing and input from teachers to monitor the progress of students. Morrin said the input from teachers is an important part of this process.
(Angie Landsverk contributed to this article.)