Final WKCE nets mixed results
The Superior school district is ready to bid farewell to Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE).
Crystal Hintzman, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the Superior school district, is relieved to see the WKCE fade away.
She says the test no longer aligns with Superior’s curriculum, and proficiency scores have dropped as a result.
“We’ve been implementing the Common Core Standards now for a couple of years,” Hintzman said. “But the WKCE tests our old standards.”
That has created a disconnect between what students learn in the classroom and what they’re expected to demonstrate on the test, Hintzman said.
The schism should disappear with the introduction of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is aligned to the Common Core Standards and will be administered online.
“I’m excited for an assessment that I think is going to allow our students to showcase what they know in a more authentic way,” Hintzman said. “The logistics of testing students — a lot of students — is going to be challenging,” but switching to a computerized test will provide more timely results. With the WKCE, students were tested in the fall, but results were not released until spring.
In Maple, director of curriculum and instruction Greg Blair is drawing up plans for the implementation of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment.
Like Hintzman, he expects some bumps in the rollout of the new assessment.
“The challenge is going to be getting the time throughout the day to get all the testing in,” Blair said.
Organizing the testing to make the best use of each school’s computers will be a “massive undertaking,” he said.
From a teaching standpoint, Blair believes the Maple school district is on track to meet the challenges of the new test. The math and reading curricula received full rewrites at each grade level to align with the Common Core Standards, and a group of 24 teachers has been working to implement and refine the changes this year.
“It’s been busy,” Blair said.
The final round of WKCE results were released in April, and for the Superior school district results were mixed again this year.
Superior students did well at the elementary level but fell below the state average in multiple subjects at the middle and high school levels.
Elementary school students tested above the state average across the board except for in fourth-grade reading. Scores at that grade level improved from last year but still came in 1.4 points below the state average.
Fifth-grade students, meanwhile, saw big improvements in both reading and math. They tested 3.5 points higher than the state average in reading and 6.6 points higher in math.
“I’m not surprised to see that jump,” Hintzman said. “That makes sense with the more rigorous expectations we’ve had.
“We have a very strong math Common Core aligned resource, Math Expressions, that we use at the elementary level that we’ve been implementing for several years now.”
Superior’s third-graders tested nearly 2 points ahead of the state in math, and the fourth-graders scored 5.5 points higher.
The only grade level that did not exceed the state average was tenth grade.
The tenth-graders at Superior High School fell below the state average in all five subjects for the third straight year.
“I think that there are a lot of contributing factors to that,” Hintzman said.
Larger class sizes at the high school level may be a factor, as well as a lack of intervention for students who fall behind in their classes.
“We are working very hard at the middle school and the high school right now this year to implement intervention support to help those students who are struggling so they can close the gap,” Hintzman said.
Superior’s 10th-grade students continue to lag behind the state average, but compared to last year, they made significant improvements in reading and language arts.
The 10th-graders nearly matched the state average in language arts, scoring just three-tenths of a point behind, and improving their reading scores from 32 percent proficient last year to 39.7 percent this year.
Math continues to be an issue for the 10th-grade students. Last year, Superior trailed the state by 9.5 points in math, and this year the gap was 7.4 points.
At the middle school level, Superior lost ground in eighth-grade reading. Only 28.4 percent of students reached the proficient or advanced level this year. The state average was 33.9 percent.
Superior sixth-graders improved their reading proficiency levels from 2012, but they still tested 3.6 points below the state average this year.
The Maple school district had a surprise this year at the sixth-grade level, where proficiency scores dropped significantly in reading and math. Students scored 14 points lower in math than the year prior and 3.4 points lower in reading.
The sharp decline surprised Blair. He said the district is in the process of reviewing its fifth-grade curriculum to see what went wrong.
“Because this test is given so early in the year, you’re not really looking at what’s happening in sixth grade, you’re looking at fifth grade,” Blair said.
The Maple sixth-graders trailed the state by nearly six points in reading and more than seven points in math. As fifth-graders, the same group of students exceeded the state averaged in math but trailed by 1.6 points in reading.
Maple students also tested slightly below the state average in eighth-grade reading (1.2 points) and fourth-grade math (0.4 points).
At the high school level, students surpassed the state in all categories for the second straight year.