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Test results across schools in Northwestern Wisconsin vary against state averages

Maple and Solon Springs shine, Superior improves and Northwood struggles with elementary education, according to results for the 2006 Wisconsin Knowledge Concept Examinations.

Maple and Solon Springs shine, Superior improves and Northwood struggles with elementary education, according to results for the 2006 Wisconsin Knowledge Concept Examinations.

The statewide tests are given to students in grades 3-8 and 10 annually. The results are used for federal "No Child Left Behind" Act accountability and Wisconsin's adequate yearly progress evaluation. Students in grades 3, 5, 6 and 7 are tested in math and reading. Students in grades 4, 8 and 10 are also tested in science, social studies and language arts.

Each district gets a breakdown of how students perform on the tests, and the results can be used to evaluate the curriculum. A district's staff can take that data and look at individual questions to see what concepts teachers need to cover better and what curriculum is working well, said Greg Blair, Maple School District director of curriculum and instruction.

Across the state, 441,000 students took the tests in November, and statewide averages improved or held steady overall. Students in grades 4-7 made improvements in math. Results varied more in northwestern Wisconsin.

Maple

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Maple School District scored at or above state average in almost every subject of the test.

Students take the test in November so results are largely a measure of what students learned the previous year, and Blair said the test results show Maple hit the right note with curriculum last year.

"Our staff works hard to make sure we stay above those state averages," he said.

The only place the district dropped below state average was in fifth grade reading and math scores. Both percentages dropped in comparison to the previous class. This year, 80 percent of fifth graders tested proficient or advanced in reading compared to 87 percent in 2005-2006. In math, 70 percent of fifth graders tested proficient or better this year, compared to 73 percent the year before.

While math scores overall are above the state average in Maple, one trend in Maple's test results show is a decline in math proficiency at the 10th grade level during the past five years. In November 2002, 88 percent of Maple students were proficient or advanced, but this year only 76 percent tested proficient or advance.

The state average is about 71 percent.

Curriculum is something the district is constantly working to develop, including changes in math curriculum at the elementary level for consistency across grades and offering two options for math at the high school, Blair said.

Northwestern High School students next year have the option to chose traditional or integrated math.

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"When you can be above the state average like we are ... we're happy with it," he said "We're real pleased."

Blair will report about Maple's test results to the school board June 11.

Northwood

Northwood School District is experiencing problems in elementary education, according to WKCE results.

Scores for all five subjects tested in the fourth grade have dropped steadily during the past five years. The third grade class, tested only in reading and math, is having trouble with math. Only 32 percent of Northwood third graders and 37 percent of fourth graders are proficient or advanced in math. The number of students scoring in the minimum performance range exceeds the number of proficient and advanced students in both grades. About 50 percent of third grand students and 43 percent in fourth grade performed at the minimum standard.

No Child Left behind requires schools to raise the bar each year and Northwood isn't keeping up, said Rosemary Doyle, elementary school counselor. As a result, more students are falling behind, she said.

Administrators at Northwood have formulated a plan to address the problem.

This summer staff plan to evaluate the data during a three-day retreat and consider the curriculum for students in K-4 to find the gaps in education. District staff will evaluate curriculum between grades to ensure a consistent transition aligned to state standards, she said.

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Northwood is a small district with few students so test results are often skewed by one or two students, but there are too many students falling behind, Doyle said.

"We can't continue to say it's a low class," she said. "It's too much."

Staff are also looking at individual students who performed at minimum levels to develop individual education plans make sure learning disabilities aren't going untreated, Doyle said.

In fall, the district will begin progress monitoring throughout the school year. Teachers will conduct small tests during the year to measure how curriculum is working, she said.

The test results show that Northwood students are catching up in upper grades. Fifth grade students are still behind the state average with 65 percent proficient or advanced in math, but they are catching up. Last year, only 47 percent of fourth graders -- this year's fifth graders -- were proficient or advanced in math. It will be interesting to see how this year's third and fourth grade students perform as they grow. Northwood plans to track the current elementary class to ensure they do catch up, Doyle said.

A new administrative team starts this summer with Assistant Administrator Jean Serum stepping up as Northwood School's new principal. Anyone who wants to discuss the test results is encourage to call Serum.

Solon Springs

Solon Springs School District students performed 5 to 19 percentage points above state average in math but lagged in language arts.

The district lead the state in math at almost every level -- often dramatically higher than average.

In fifth grade, 96 percent of Solon Springs students scored proficient or advanced in math compared to the state average of 75 percent.

Only the eighth grade didn't exceed the average in math -- they tied it.

Solon Springs, like Northwood is a small district with between 20 and 30 students in each grade.

"I think overall we did pretty well," said Gary Franciewicz, administrator. "Testing is just one measure ... our test scores were pretty good."

The district uses a well integrated math curriculum, which is reflected in test scores, Franciewicz said. He said the curriculum covers a wide range of topics at once, benefiting students in the long run.

Where Solon Springs leads in math, it lags in language arts. Language arts is only tested in grades 4, 8 and 10, and students trailed the state at each grade level.

Fourth graders scored 61 percent proficient or advanced compared to 77 percent statewide. Eighth grade trailed the state by 21 percentage points with only 41 percent of students proficient or advanced, but 10th grade students fared better with 68 percent proficient or advanced while the state average was 71 percent.

The staff at Solon Springs will analyze test data in language arts and see where modifications need to be made, Franciewicz said. "We're working on analyzing the data now," he said.

If a small number of kids are not doing well, percentages don't give a good indication of how a curriculum is actually working, he said.

The district analyzes the data to see what in the curriculum needs modifying. If curriculum is working well, but test scores drop, the district doesn't change everything for one year's bad results.

Language art scores in the district dropped significantly from 2005, when 96 percent of fourth grade students were proficient or advanced. The district also saw a one-year drop in 10th grade results, which has fluctuated by 20 percentage points in recent years. Eighth grade scores have been dropping consistently since 2003 when 95 percent of students were proficient or advanced.

Superior

Keeping with the state, Superior School District is improving math scores at all grade levels tested except the eighth grade where they dropped slightly.

The general trends are good. The district has focused on math curriculum and the results are a gradual increase in test scores, said MaryAnne Korsch, director of curriculum and instruction. Teachers are working with one another between grade levels and the district uses multiple assessments to gauge what students know during the year, she said.

Even with the improvements Superior has work to do. The district still trails the state average in math at five grade levels.

Superior is about even or slightly behind state averages in most areas tested. Superior does reach above state averages in reading in grades 7 and 8, and science at grade 8.

"In nearly all areas we are able to show slow and steady progress at all grade levels," Korsch said. "Superior students are achieving at nearly the level of their counterpoints across the state and the gap between the two continues to decrease." The district has worked hard in the area of reading, and that work is paying off, she said.

The area of focus for Superior in 2007-2008 will be language arts.

Superior fourth and eighth graders trailed while 10th graders' tied the state average in language arts this year.

The district has been doing a lot of writing activities at every school, but the scope and sequence of the assignments are not consistent. Staff members will work to streamline the curriculum, Korsch said.

They also will begin looking at science curriculum as the Adequate Yearly Progress evaluation extends to cover the subject in the next few years.

Superior's fourth and 10th grade students scored below the state average in science this year.

Elementary school teachers spend a large part of the day with reading and math, but that time shouldn't come at the expense of science and social studies, Korsch said. The district will work to incorporate more science and social studies content into math and reading lessons, she said.

Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail akurth@superiortelegram.com .

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