Schools use variety of tests to gauge student abilities

Published 11:28 am Saturday, September 11, 2010

Area schools in Freeborn County differed greatly in scores from the Annual Yearly Progress reports of the No Child Left Behind Act. Making AYP is dependent on the scores of subgroups like Asian, Hispanic, black, white and special education.

Glenville-Emmons School District passed AYP, a feather in that district’s cap. Alden-Conger, United South Central and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva school districts did not make AYP.

Sue Gillard, elementary school principal at G-E, said the schools made excellent progress and want to do the same for next year.

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“We did not make AYP last year in one of the subgroups,” Gillard said. “We applied goals to all students instead of just that group because everyone would benefit from them.”

Gillard said the schools also involved students’ families in the process and held family math nights at the elementary school so parents and students could work on math skills.

A-C, USC and NRHEG did not make AYP scores. Administrators at these schools agreed that those scores can be flawed, but they can help indicate areas that need improvement.

“I don’t consider AYP terribly relevant to what we do,” A-C Superintendent Joe Guanella said.

He went on to say that for smaller schools the scores can make it look like the whole school is failing, when in one instance he found in the data the whole school would have made AYP if one student had answered one more question right. Guanella said A-C places more importance on Northwest Evaluation Association tests, as students take them three times a year.

“It gives a lot better picture of where the student is at,” Guanella said.

Kevin Wellen, superintendent of NRHEG schools, also said that NWEA scores are useful because they give individual scores for students.

“We’re fully aware of where we’re at with MCA-II scores, but as a general rule they don’t make me nervous,” Wellen said.

He also said the school uses those scores to address student issues. Wellen said the data can be helpful to look at areas that could use improvement.

“We look at it and we want to be better,” Wellen said. “We want our scores to be better across the board.”

Tracy Frank is the elementary school principal and district testing coordinator for USC, and said it was the first year some subgroups in the district didn’t make AYP in math. It was the second year the district didn’t make AYP in reading in the special education subgroup.

“Standards are continually getting harder and more challenging for the kids,” Frank said.

She said the district made an improvement team made up of 12 staff members to address the scores and find ways to improve.

“It was beneficial for our teachers to take a close look at that data,” Frank said.

One example of something new the district is trying is to have special education students stay in the core classes and tutoring them as well. Previously educators would take the students out of the class and tutor them, but with the new plan they will have increased the amount of time the student is studying the material.

USC also uses NWEA tests to gauge student abilities. Frank said the school likes to use those tests as another way to prepare them for the MCA-II tests that determine AYP scores.