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Officials boast Edison Middle School's test-score reversal

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
June 25, 2011
— District officials are touting state tests results at Edison Middle School, just a year after the school was put on a state watch list for failing to achieve "adequate yearly progress."

The problem was the scores for students with disabilities—a problem that has cropped up several times at different district schools over the years.


The federal No Child Left Behind legislation requires that a school's overall test results show progress, but also that various groups within a school—minorities and students with disabilities, for example—also show progress.


Students with disabilities comprise about 100 of Edison's 700 students.


Edison was found to be lacking based on tests given in fall 2009. Officials and teachers worked on a plan to improve results for the fall 2010 tests.


The results of their efforts: Numbers of students with disabilities who performed satisfactorily on the tests shot up everywhere except in seventh-grade math.


One standout result was the percentage of sixth-graders with disabilities who performed satisfactorily in reading. That number jumped from 29 percent to 66 percent.


Schoolwide, test performance improved in reading and math in every grade except seventh-grade reading. The biggest jump was eighth-grade math, from 67 percent satisfactory performance to 81 percent.


Principal Jim LeMire will discuss what was done with the school board when it meets Tuesday.


The school applied techniques used previously at Franklin Middle School to get improvement in the scores of students with disabilities. The techniques were used on the entire school, not just one group, officials said. The result was a test-score improvement school-wide.


Kim Ehrhardt, the director of instruction, said the district's formula starts with examining test results question-by-question to find weaknesses.


Then the whole school changed its schedule for six weeks last fall to focus on those weaknesses. Math and English—things such as measurement, fractions, vocabulary and finding context clues in reading—were the focus.


Ehrhardt said that although regular instruction and other subjects were set aside during the six-week period, he believes the work paid off across the curriculum.


"If kids do not have requisite reading skills, if they do not have the requisite math skills, that will have an impact on all instructional areas," Ehrhardt said. "I mean, you can't do tech ed if you can't measure," for example.


The school also employed motivational techniques, including a pre-test pep assembly that featured drum corps from both high schools.


Edison also "sharpened" its after-school program and began to hold Saturday school sessions, both moves to provide help for students who were struggling.


The district's third middle school, Marshall, has applied some of the same general principles this past year and saw improved test result as well, Ehrhardt said.


The achievement puts Edison in the same place Franklin Middle School had been a year before. Franklin had the same problem with its students with disabilities and employed the same measures. Franklin's test results also soared the following year, but Franklin was back on the watch list this year, again because of the scores of students with disabilities.


Ehrhardt said the rules for determining "adequate yearly progress" require improvement from the previous year's results, making educators' jobs tougher each year. He hopes changes in federal legislation will address this problem.


"Now the goal is to stay off the list and keep improving." LeMire said. "There's always room for improvement."



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