District aims to improve math scores
By Scott Bellile
Hortonville Area School District achieved high marks on its Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction District Report Card during the 2015-16 school year.
The four-star “Exceeds Expectations” accountability rating indicates Hortonville’s outcomes surpass DPI expectations for student achievement, student growth, closing achievement gaps, and preparing students for graduation and beyond.
Hortonville and Greenville schools were assigned the following ratings on the report card, released publicly Nov. 17:
• Meets expectations: Hortonville High School
• Exceeds Expectations: Hortonville Middle School, Fox West Academy, Greenville Elementary School and Greenville Middle School
• Significantly Exceeds Expectations: Hortonville Elementary School and North Greenville Elementary School
HASD Director of Learning Chris Hansen presented the results to the Hortonville School Board Nov. 29. He said HASD was one of 187 districts statewide to earn “Exceeds Expectations.” The rating is a cause for celebration, yet not the best HASD can do, he said.
“We’ve been ‘good’ for a while, and we’re not satisfied with that,” Hansen told teachers and administration. “But the one thing we really need to do is to celebrate … We certainly appreciate the work that all you do out there to make these numbers happen.”
The report card draws student achievement information from assessments including: the statewide Forward Exam, which was introduced at elementary and middle schools last year; Dynamic Learning Maps, which measures the academic progress of elementary through high school students with cognitive disabilities; and the ACT, taken by high school juniors.
HASD was graded the highest on “On-Track and Postsecondary Readiness.” Factored into this category were the graduation rate, attendance rate, third-grade English language arts achievement scores and eighth-grade mathematics achievement scores.
The only criterion HASD as a whole scored lower than the state average in was Mathematics Growth.
At Hortonville Middle School, the Mathematics Growth score was almost six points below the state score. Still, the school’s Mathematics Achievement score was a point above the state average.
Students at HMS and HHS came in below the state average for their percentages of proficient and advanced students in math. GMS and FWA were above the state average.
“We scored very high two years ago in math. We were the highest in the area,” Hansen said. “This year we didn’t score as high, and we’re targeting math in the high school, adding some new staff members in there.”
Hansen predicted gains in math next year at HHS through further development of professional learning communities and embedded ACT prep in everyday lessons.
GMS and HHS have more work to do to reach the state level for closing mathematics achievement gaps among minorities and students with disabilities, according to the report card.
HASD found the sub-group of English language learners (ELL) posted low math scores, Hansen said. The ELL staff has met to address how to target those students.
“The biggest thing with students who are second-language learners in math is that academic vocabulary,” Hansen said. “It’s hard enough for them to just live every day, much less understand algorithms and that kind of thing.”
Math remains a weak spot for the middle level in general. HASD hired math coaches a year and a half ago to assist fifth- to eighth-grade classrooms after seeing success with coaches at the elementary schools.
“So the expected results of hiring math coaches is to correctly address that issue?” school board member Craig Dreier asked.
“You bet,” Hansen said. “And our elementary math scores are tremendously high … We’re in the 70th percentile in the state.”
HHS earned the district’s lowest rating, “Meets Expectations.” Still, HASD District Administrator Heidi Schmidt said there are “some really good things happening” at HHS.
At the school board meeting Monday, Dec. 12, Schmidt said the Nov. 29 discussion “didn’t give a real good picture” of the high school’s strengths. So HHS Principal Todd Timm and HHS Mathematics Department Head Kevin McElrath revisited the topic with the board.
The math curriculum has changed recently, McElrath said. Four years ago, HHS had a separate track for lower-end math students that stretched the two-year algebra and geometry program across three years.
The school went away from that and created “Algebra Extended” and “Geometry Extended” classes for lower-end students. These use a similar curriculum as that of students who aren’t struggling, but they include further skill development and one-on-one.
Matthew DeKoch is teaching all the extended classes. McElrath said De Koch gives Extended students semiweekly assessments that he uses to develop individualized learning plans for each student.
Seventy percent of students in the 35th percentile or lower have shown growth through the Extended classes, McElrath said.
“We truly believe that we have the right kids in the right place for the right reason,” McElrath said.
At Monday’s meeting, Timm also reported where HHS stands compared to other schools.
Before November, the most recent report card came out after the 2013-14 academic year, back when HHS was part of the Bay Conference. Hortonville ranked fifth of nine Bay schools.
For the sake of comparison, Timm determined where Hortonville would have ranked in its current conference, the Fox Valley Association (FVA), had it been part of the FVA in 2013-14. Hortonville would have been seventh.
In the 2015-16 report card, Timm said most FVA schools saw drops in their report card scores.
However, HHS’s composite score improved to 72.1. It’s now the second highest of FVA schools, 1.2 points below Kimberly.
“When you start looking at our ‘15-16 results to other high schools in the FVA using the same data sets, I feel really, really positive about what our teachers have done and how our school’s progressed over the last couple years,” Timm said.
Back at the Nov. 29 board meeting, district staff said in the end HASD still has a competitive drive and strives to do better.
“Every year we don’t beat Kimberly is a bad year. That’s the way I look at it,” Hansen said.
“Well we beat everyone else though … So we can celebrate that,” HHS Dean of Students Timothy Rietveld said.