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Janesville test scores ‘inching up’

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ANN MARIE AMES
April 9, 2010
— Janesville School District Administrator Karen Schulte is spending a good part of her vacation crunching test scores.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction this week released results from the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam. Third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, eighth- and 10-grade students took the standardized tests in the fall.


The state uses test scores to make sure schools are making progress and to calculate some funding.


The district also uses the scores to track progress and to plan professional training, Schulte said. For example, principals might plan in-service training for teachers about how to teach economically disadvantaged students to read.


“I’ve been analyzing these numbers to death,” Schulte said. “All the principals take these numbers and dissect them.”


As a whole, Janesville students exceeded the target scores set by the state.


On the math test, 78.4 percent of students were proficient or advanced. That’s up from 77.9 percent in 2008, according to DPI data.


In reading, 82.9 percent of students were proficient or advanced. That’s up from 82.3 percent in 2008, according to the data.


Those improvements mesh with the school board’s goal of raising reading and math scores over a two-year period, Schulte said.


“We are in the first year of that,” she said. “So, it’s inching up. It’s not moving as quickly as I’d like, but it is moving forward.”


However, three schools failed to reach the target test scores at some grade levels.


-- At Jackson and Madison elementary schools, only 64 and 65 percent of students, respectively, were proficient or advanced in the reading test. The target score is 74 percent for all grades in reading.


-- Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Wilson Elementary did not meet the target scores in math or reading with one exception: 68 percent of fifth-graders were proficient or advanced in math. The target math score is 58 percent in all grades.


The tests of eight students at Wilson School were “invalidated” because a proctor helped students, the Gazette reported in December. Those invalidated tests explain in part the low scores at Wilson and the decline in scores at Wilson compared to last year, Schulte said.


In December, a DPI spokeswoman said the invalidated tests probably would not make a big difference in Wilson’s overall performance.


The three schools could face DPI sanctions for the low scores, but Schulte wouldn’t speculate about what those could be.


“I’m not going to say or predict what that means for those schools,” Schulte said. “In June, they (DPI) announce what schools didn’t meet adequate yearly progress.”


The DPI further separates each school’s and each grade’s scores into categories such as race, gender, disability or economic status.


Some groups of students might have failed to reach the target percentages of advanced or proficient scores in reading or math, but Schulte hasn’t finished studying all the numbers, she said Thursday.


She did find some success stories in some Janesville student categories, she said.


For example, black students made great strides in closing the achievement gap between themselves and white students at Craig and Parker high schools, Schulte said.


Black sophomores at Craig increased their adequate or proficient reading test scores from 63 percent in 2008 to 83 percent in 2009.


The same score for white students was 84 percent, Schulte said.


That small of a gap is a first for black students at Craig, she said.


At Parker, the gap shrunk to 6 percent, she said.


Schulte points to work the district has been doing to close that gap. The improvements started with classroom efforts when this year’s sophomores were freshmen, she said.


Improving the diversity of the teaching staff and crafting carefully focused professional development are two methods the district has used to increase test scores, she said.


“We have been working on those things for a couple years, and I think it’s finally not only paying off in the classroom, but it’s bearing out in the numbers,” Schulte said. “To me there’s a glimmer of hope.”



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