June 24, 2008

Unified's test scores show ... what exactly?

Sigh. Call me lazy, but I'm not even going to try and decipher the "Adequate Yearly Progress" results Unified put out this morning. Our friends at the JT take a shot at it, but I'm not so brave. Truth is: These numbers mean nothing. When one of the main criteria is how many people took a test (the schools actually have incentives to get kids to come to school on test days so they can meet this mark), it's hard to take the results seriously.

I'm all for measuring results in school, especially if those results can pinpoint teachers, students and administrators who are doing a good (or bad) job. There are educators in Unified who know how to reach kids and actually teach them something. But how do we identify these people? The numbers now are so vague and confusing that teachers and schools come across as equals - and no improvement is made.

Let's use the numbers to identify our professional educators who are making a difference, and celebrate these people as community leaders. It'd be a lot better than jargony mess that passes for accountability under the current system.

Don't believe me? Here's Unified's full release on the Adequate Yearly Progress numbers:

Date: June 24, 2008
To: Dr. Jackson Parker, Interim Superintendent
Board of Education
News Media
From: Dr. Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Stephen Miller, Director of Standards, Assessment, and Accountability
Subject: AYP – Media Information

Earlier this month, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) provided Preliminary Annual Reviews of School Performance which included RUSD schools that did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) toward state-established benchmarks for the 2007-2008 school year. A summary of these results is provided in the following narrative.

Annual Review of School Performance
The Annual Review of School Performance is based on requirements in four areas.

1) Test Participation – A minimum of 95% of enrolled students must participate in the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam Criterion-Referenced Test (WKCE-CRT) and/or the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities (WAA-SwD).

2) Other Academic Indicator - Attendance rates of at least 85% for elementary and middle schools or graduation rates of at least 80% for high schools or growth from the prior year must be achieved.

3) Reading Proficiency Index – A proficiency index score of at least 74% (increased from the requirement of 67.5% last year) must be attained.

4) Math Proficiency Index – A proficiency index of at least 58% (increased from the requirement of 47.5% last year) must be attained.

Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), schools as a whole (all tested grades) are held accountable for student performance in nine subgroups: All Students, each of five major racial/ethnic categories (American Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic, and White), English Language Learners (ELL), Students with Disabilities, and Economically Disadvantaged students. For AYP purposes, the minimum number of students in a subgroup needed to make valid accountability decisions for schools or districts is defined as 40. Most large, diverse schools and districts such as those in Racine will have adequate student numbers across all subgroups, thereby increasing the challenge of meeting AYP for all schools and for the district.

A school will miss AYP for an objective if one or more student subgroups meet
minimum cell size and fail to meet the AYP criterion for that objective. Failing to meet Department of Standards, Assessment, and Accountability AYP in the same objective for two or more consecutive years will result in designation as a School Identified for Improvement (SIFI). If a SIFI school meets the criterion in the following year, the school is designated as Improved. If the school meets the objective for a second year, it is designated Satisfactory.

Districts are evaluated for AYP at each of the three grade spans in which they have tested grades: Elementary (3-5), Middle (6-8) and High School (10). In order to be designated a District Identified for Improvement (DIFI) a district must miss the same objective at all relevant grade spans for two consecutive years.

Schools and districts that receive Title I funds are subject to sanctions for failing to meet AYP for two or more consecutive years. Sanctions may include school improvement plans (this is already a requirement for all RUSD schools as stipulated by the Quality Management System), corrective action, and restructuring. No school in RUSD is included in this sanctioned group at the present time nor is the district as a whole.

2007-2008 AYP Performance of RUSD Schools
RUSD schools that did not make AYP in 2007-2008 include the following.

. Wadewitz Elementary School missed AYP in reading and math while Goodland and Knapp Elementary Schools missed in only math. All three schools missed AYP only this year and are designated Satisfactory. All three schools are Title I schools but have only missed AYP for one year. Therefore, no Title I sanctions apply.

. Jerstad-Agerholm Middle School missed AYP in math and Mitchell Middle School missed AYP in reading. Both schools missed AYP only this year and are designated Satisfactory. These schools have Title I seventh grades but no sanctions will yet apply.

. McKinley Middle School, as well as Horlick, Park and Case High Schools, are
designated SIFI because they missed AYP in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007. In 2007-2008, McKinley missed AYP in math; Horlick missed in math but met AYP in reading and graduation rate; and, Park missed in reading, math and test participation, but met AYP in graduation rate. These schools are designated SIFI Level 2. Case met AYP in all areas and is designated SIFI Level 1 Improved.

. Gilmore Middle School missed AYP in 2006-2007 but met it in 2007-2008 and is therefore designated Satisfactory.

. Racine Unified School District missed AYP at each grade span. Because this is the first year of not meeting AYP at the district level, RUSD is currently designated

Notable Points
Steve Miller, Director of Standards, Assessment, and Accountability, said, “The staff of Case High School are to be commended for meeting AYP in all areas. There are approximately twenty-eight ways in which a school can miss AYP and only one way they can make it – through a focused, collaborative effort of all staff with student success as the goal. Gilmore Middle School staff are also to be commended for meeting AYP this year after missing it last year.”

Area Superintendents, working with central office support staff, will reallocate staff and fiscal resources in support of academic improvement. Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, Chief Academic Officer, shared that, “This effort could include local collegiate resources such as student tutors and opportunities for involvement by early field experience students.”

Secondary Transformation efforts will lead during the coming school year to the
development of building-level transformation teams at Park and Horlick High Schools.

Progress has already been made toward better meeting the learning needs of students with disabilities through the ongoing work of the Special Education Task Force, as recommended by the Independent Commission on Education and as stipulated by a Quality Management System Improvement Action.

Last year’s efforts in support of improving constructed response item performance, short essays required as part of the WKCE-CRT, will continue; and, the district has implemented short-cycle assessments in reading and math which model WKCE test appearance and content in anticipation of the next state test administration in November.

A structured data retreat approach to facilitate uniform use of data for school
improvement across all schools, following a model developed by CESA 7, will be
required of all building leaders in the coming school year. Training for school leaders in this process will begin in July and continue with school teams in August.


  1. One more reason CSD (Cal Sch Dis)should offer 100% choice and be one big charter school.

  2. A lot of the WKCE problems started when they moved the test from February to November. The kids then had less than one semester of a Geometry class (if they took Algebra as 9th graders), yet Geometry is the majority of the math section. I had one student in my homeroom who simply filled in bubbles because he said he hadn't gotten to Geometry yet, and he didn't understand the questions.

    Also, students are required to write a 5 paragraph essay in under 30 minutes. Some of those topics are difficult to decipher, yet teachers are not allowed to explain.

    But like the author of this article said, how much of this is because students are never in class to learn the things we need to do. A good teacher will automatically teach the things that will be on the test; however, maybe we need to make students start taking a test preparation class first quarter of sophomore year.