November, 2008 Madison School Board Priorities

63 page 444K PDF:

This year marks the ninth year of public reporting on the Board of Education Priorities for reading and mathematics achievement and school attendance. The data present a clear picture of District progress on each of the priorities. The document also reflects the deep commitment of the Madison Metropolitan School District to assuring that all students have the knowledge and skills needed for academic achievement and a successful life.
1. All students complete 3rd grade able to read at grade level or beyond.

  • Beginning in the fall of 2005-06, the federal No Child Left Behind Act required all states to test all students in reading from grades 3-8 and once in high school. This test replaced the former Wisconsin Reading Comprehension Test. MMSD now reports on three years of data for students in grade 4.
  • District wide 74% of students scored proficient or advanced in reading on the 2007-08 WKCE, which is a 2% decline.
  • Hispanic and Other Asian students posted increases in percent of proficient or higher reading levels between 2007 and 2008.

2. All students complete Algebra by the end of 9th grade and Geometry by the end of 10th grade.

  • The largest relative gain in Algebra between the previous year measure, 2007-08, and this school year was among African American students.
  • Students living in low income households who successfully completed Algebra by grade 10 at the beginning of 2008-09 increased since the previous year.
  • The rate for Geometry completions for females continues to be slighter higher than their male counterparts.

3. All students, regardless of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic or linguistic subgroup, attend school at a 94 percent attendance rate at each grade level. The attendance rate of elementary students as a group continues to be above the 94% goal. All ethnic subgroups, except for African American (92.5% rate for 2007-08, 93.0% rate for 2006-07 and 93.1% for the previous two years) continue to meet the 94% attendance goal.
This report includes information about district initiatives that support students’ goal attainment. In the context of the MMSD Educational Framework, the initiatives described for the literacy and the mathematics priorities focus primarily within the LEARNING component and those described for the attendance priority focus primarily within the ENGAGEMENT component. It is important to note that underlying the success of any efforts that focus on LEARNING or ENGAGEMENT is the significance of RELATIONSHIPS.

The Obama Education Splurge/Stimulus: More Testing

Greg Toppo:

The USA’s public schools stand to be the biggest winners in Congress’ $825 billion economic stimulus plan unveiled last week. Schools are scheduled to receive nearly $142 billion over the next two years — more than health care, energy or infrastructure projects — and the stimulus could bring school advocates closer than ever to a long-sought dream: full funding of the No Child Left Behind law and other huge federal programs.
But tucked into the text of the proposal’s 328 pages are a few surprises: If they want the money — and they certainly do — schools must spend at least a portion of it on a few of education advocates’ long-sought dreams. In particular, they must develop:

  • High-quality educational tests.
  • Ways to recruit and retain top teachers in hard-to-staff schools.
  • Longitudinal data systems that let schools track long-term progress.

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The Wisconsin test: WKCE has been criticized for its low standards. More on the WKCE here.

Another Look at the Madison School District’s Use of “Value Added Assessment”



Andy Hall:

The analysis of data from 27 elementary schools and 11 middle schools is based on scores from the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE), a state test required by the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Madison is the second Wisconsin district, after Milwaukee, to make a major push toward value-added systems, which are gaining support nationally as an improved way of measuring school performance.
Advocates say it’s better to track specific students’ gains over time than the current system, which holds schools accountable for how many students at a single point in time are rated proficient on state tests.
“This is very important,” Madison schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad said. “We think it’s a particularly fair way … because it’s looking at the growth in that school and ascertaining the influence that the school is having on that outcome.”
The findings will be used to pinpoint effective teaching methods and classroom design strategies, officials said. But they won’t be used to evaluate teachers: That’s forbidden by state law.
The district paid about $60,000 for the study.

Much more on “Value Added Assessment” here.
Ironically, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction stated the following:

“… The WKCE is a large-scale assessment designed to provide a snapshot of how well a district or school is doing at helping all students reach proficiency on state standards, with a focus on school and district-level accountability. A large-scale, summative assessment such as the WKCE is not designed to provide diagnostic information about individual students. Those assessments are best done at the local level, where immediate results can be obtained. Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum.”

Related:

ACE Update on the November 2008 Madison Referendum, Information Session Tonight

REMINDER: The MMSD district is holding its second of four “Information Sessions” regarding the referendum tonight (Thursday, October 16), 6:30 pm, Jefferson Middle School. You are urged to attend.
The Madison Metropolitan School District seeks approval of the district taxpayers to permanently exceed the revenue cap for operations money by $13 million a year. In the meantime, to establish that new tax base over the next three years, a total of $27 million in more revenue will have been raised for programs and services. The district has also projected there will continue to be a ‘gap’ or shortfall of revenue to meet expenses of approximately $4 million per year after the next three years, thereby expecting to seek approval for additional spending authority.
Whereas, the Board of Education has staked the future of the district on increased spending to maintain current programs and services for a “high quality education;”
Whereas, student performance on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams has languished at the 7, 8, and 9 deciles (in comparison with the rest of the state’s schools where 1 is the highest level and 10 is the lowest) in 4th, 8th and 10th grade reading, math, science, social studies and language arts exams for the past five years. The total percentage of MMSD students performing at either “proficient” or “advanced” levels (the two highest standards) has consistently ranged in mid 60%s to mid 70%s;
Whereas, the district Drop Out Rate of 2.7% (2006-07) was the highest since 1998-99. With the exception of two years with slight declines, the rate has risen steadily since 1999.
Whereas, the Attendance Rate for all students has remained basically steady since 1998-99 in a range from 95.2% (2005-06) to a high of 96.5% (2001-02);
Whereas, the district Truancy Rate of students habitually truant has risen again in the past three years to 6.0% in 2006-07. The truancy rate has ranged from 6.3% (1999-2000) to 4.4% in 2002-03;
Whereas, the district total PreK-12 enrollment has declined from 25,087 (2000-01) to its second lowest total of 24,540 (2008-09) since that time;
Whereas, the district annual budget has increased from approximately $183 million in 1994-1995 (the first year of revenue caps) to approximately $368 million (2008-09);
Whereas, the board explains the ‘budget gap’ between revenue and expenses as created by the difference between the state mandated Qualified Economic Offer of 3.8% minimum for salary and health benefits for professional teaching staff and the 2.2% average annual increases per student in the property tax levy. The district, however, has agreed with the teachers’ union for an average 4.24% in annual increases since 2001;
Whereas, the district annual cost per pupil is the second highest in the state at $13,280 for the school year 2007-08;

Wisconsin, Mississippi Have “Easy State K-12 Exams” – NY Times

Sam Dillon:

A state-by-state analysis by The New York Times found that in the 40 states reporting on their compliance so far this year, on average, 4 in 10 schools fell short of the law’s testing targets, up from about 3 in 10 last year. Few schools missed targets in states with easy exams, like Wisconsin and Mississippi, but states with tough tests had a harder time. In Hawaii, Massachusetts and New Mexico, which have stringent exams, 60 to 70 percent of schools missed testing goals. And in South Carolina, which has what may be the nation’s most rigorous tests, 83 percent of schools missed targets.

Related:

What’s in a Grade & An Update on Madison’s Standards Based Report Card Scheme

Stafford Palmieri:

The red pen. In our still largely decentralized public school system, it’s no big surprise that this old-fashioned instrument of ill repute gets starkly different treatment from district to district and state to state. Three locales, in fact, have recently reopened the question, “what’s in a grade”–and come up with very different answers. Perhaps by evaluating these recent conversations, we can imagine what standard GPAs might look like.
Fairfax County, Virginia, parents are outraged that their children must score a 94 to receive an A. Neighboring counties give As for a mere 90, they argue, and they and their kids are being unfairly penalized when competing for college admission, national merit awards, even a lower car insurance bill. Parents have taken up arms in hopes that extended pressure on the district to follow the example of nearby school systems will lead to a lower bar; Fairfax is contemplating doing so.
Fairfax’s one-county crusade against grade inflation is probably sacrificing its students on the altar of its ideals, as parents allege, and remedying that problem is not difficult. Despite cries of the old “slippery slope,” shifting the letter-number ratio to match neighboring counties will ultimately benefit Fairfax students (in the short term at least) when it comes to college admissions and the like.
Pittsburgh has tackled the other end of the grading spectrum. All failing grades (those of 50 or below) will henceforth be marked down as 50 percent credit in grade books. Long on the books but only recently enforced, this policy, the district claims, is simply giving students a better chance to “catch up” in the next quarter since quarters are averaged into semester and yearlong grades. “A failing grade is still a failing grade,” explains district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh. Seems not to matter if it’s a 14 or a 49. Round up to 50.

Locally, the Madison School District is implementing “Standards Based Report Cards” in the middle schools.
I’ve wondered what the implementation of this initiative tells parents, citizens and taxpayers, not to mention students about the new Superintendent? See his memo on the subject here. More here.
The State of Wisconsin’s standards are changing, according to this Department of Public Instruction. Peter Sobol’s post on the WKCE’s suitability for tracking student progress is illuminating:

… The WKCE is a large-scale assessment designed to provide a snapshot of how well a district or school is doing at helping all students reach proficiency on state standards, with a focus on school and district-level accountability. A large-scale, summative assessment such as the WKCE is not designed to provide diagnostic information about individual students. Those assessments are best done at the local level, where immediate results can be obtained. Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum.

Much more on report cards here.

Study: “Ohio State Tests Invalid for Rating Schools”

Randy Hoover:

This is the table of contents to the final findings from the research study of Ohio school district performance on the OPT and OSRC. This site is the data, graph, links, and comment page for Hoover’s research study of Ohio school district proficiency test and school report card performance accountability. These data and findings have been released to the public as of February 27, 2000. The entire study is available online for your use. If you wish to be included in the emailing list of updates about OPT and OSRC issues, click on the logo at the top of this page and send me your request.
The graphs and data presented here are from the final replication of the study. This final analysis represents the culmination of several hundred hours of work put forth to gain empirical insights into OPT performance across all Ohio school districts. At the time the study was completed there were 611 school districts in the State of Ohio. This study uses data from 593 districts out of the 611 total. 18 districts were not included in the study because of incomplete data or because the districts were too small such as North Bass Island. All data were taken from EMIS online data and no data other than the data presented by the State of Ohio were used. My confidence level is high that there are very few errors in the data array. Though errors are certainly possible, I am confident that if they exist they are minor and do not significantly affect the overall conclusions of this study. (RLH)

Scott Elliott has more.
Related: The Madison School District’s “Value Added Assessment” program uses the Wisconsin Department of Public instruction’s WKCE results. The WKCE’s rigor has been criticized.

Madison Math Task Force Minutes

March 7, 2008 Meeting [rtf / pdf]. Well worth reading for those interested in the use of Connected Math and Core Plus, among others, in our schools.
A few interesting items:

  • Mitchell Nathan proposed a change to the name of the Work Group to more authentically describe its intent. There was consensus to accept the change in designation for the Work Group from “Curriculum Review and Research Findings” to “Learning from Curricula.”
  • “Addresses the misconception that there is one curriculum. There are a number of curricula at play, with the exception of the narrowing down at the middle school level, but teachers are also drawing from supplementary materials. There are a range of pathways for math experiences. The work plan would give an overview by level of program of what exists. “
  • “Could say that variety is good for children to have places to plug into. Could expand on the normative idea of purchasing commercial curricula vs. richer, in-house materials. Standards tell the teachers what needs to be taught. Published materials often are missing some aspect of the standards. District tries to define core resources; guides that help people with classroom organization.” Fascinating, given the move toward one size fits all in high school, such as English 9 and 10.
  • “Want to include a summary of the NRC report that came out in favor of Connected Math but was not conclusive—cannot control for teacher effects, positive effects of all curricula, etc. “
  • “Would like to give some portrayal of the opportunities for accelerated performance — want to document informal ways things are made available for differentiation. “
  • “Include elementary math targeted at middle school, e.g., Math Masters. There is information out there to address the Math Masters program and its effect on student achievement.”
  • “Data are available to conclude that there is equity in terms of resources”
  • “District will have trend data, including the period when Connected Math was implemented, and control for changes in demographics and see if there was a change. No way to link students who took the WKCE with a particular curriculum experience (ed: some years ago, I recall a teacher asked Administration at a PTO meeting whether they would track students who took Singapore Math at the Elementary level: “No”). That kind of data table has to be built, including controls and something to match teacher quality. May recommend that not worth looking at WKCE scores of CM (Connected Math) student or a case study is worth doing. “
  • The Parent Survey will be mailed to the homes of 1500 parents of students across all grades currently enrolled in MMSD math classes. The Teacher Survey will be conducted via the district’s web site using the Infinite Campus System.
  • MMSD Math Task Force website

Math Forum audio / video and links.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Releases Latest State Test Results, Madison Trails State Averages

380K PDF Press Release [AP’s posting of DPI’s press release]:

Results for statewide testing show an overall upward trend for mathematics, stable scores in reading, and a slight narrowing of several achievement gaps. This three-year trend comes at a time when poverty is continuing to increase among Wisconsin students.
The 434,507 students who took the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE) and the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities (WAA-SwD) this school year showed gains over the past three years in mathematics in six out of seven grades tested. Reading achievement at the elementary, middle, and high school levels was stable over three years. An analysis of all combined grades indicates a narrowing of some achievement gaps by racial/ethnic group.
“These three years of assessment data show some positive trends. While some results point to achievement gains, we must continue our focus on closing achievement gaps and raising achievement for all students,” said State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster.

Andy Hall notes that Madison Trails State Averages [Dane County Test Result Comparison prepared by Andy Hall & Phil Brinkmanpdf]:

But in the Madison School District, just two of the 23 proficiency scores improved, while five were unchanged and 16 declined, according to a Wisconsin State Journal review of the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school year data from the state Department of Public Instruction.
Madison’s scores trail the state average in 22 of the 23 scores. Typically the percentage of Madison students attaining proficient or advanced ratings trails the state average by several percentage points.
“The fact that we’re able to stay close to the state average as our demographics have made dramatic changes, I think is a positive,” said Madison schools Superintendent Art Rainwater, who added that the district’s “strong instructional program” is meeting many of the challenges of immigrant and low-income students while ensuring that “high fliers are still flying high.”
A district analysis shows that when the district’s students are compared with their peers across the state, a higher percentage of Madison students continue to attain “advanced” proficiency scores — the highest category.
Madison students who aren’t from low-income families “continue to outperform their state counterparts,” with higher percentages with advanced scores in reading and math at all seven tested grade levels, the district reported.
Rainwater said he’s long feared that the district’s increasingly needy student population, coupled with the state’s revenue limits that regularly force the district to cut programs and services, someday will cause test scores to drop sharply. But so far, he said, the district’s scores are higher than would be expected, based on research examining the effects of poverty and limited English abilities on achievement.
This school year, 43 percent of Madison students are from low-income families eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, while 16 percent of students are classified as English language learners — numbers that are far above those of any other Dane County school district.
Rainwater noted that students with limited English abilities receive little help while taking the reading and language arts tests in English.

Tamira Madsen:

Reading test scores for Madison students changed little compared to 2006-07, but math results decreased in six of the seven grades tested. Of 23 scores in five topics tested statewide, Madison lagged behind state peers in 22 of 23 of those scores.
Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater attributes the district’s performance and trends to the growing population of English language learners in the district.

Officials now are able to draw upon three years of results since Wisconsin began administering testing to students in grades three through eight and grade 10 in reading and mathematics. Based on state regulations, students in fourth, eighth and 10th grade were also tested in language arts, science and social studies.

Alan Borsuk on Milwaukee’s results:

But there is little room for debate about what the scores say about the need for improvement in the outcomes for Milwaukee Public Schools students: The gaps between Milwaukee students and the rest of the state remain large, and school improvement efforts of many kinds over the years have not made much of a dent.
The problem is especially vivid when it comes to 10th-graders, the highest grade that is part of Wisconsin’s testing system. The gap between sophomores in Milwaukee and those statewide has grown larger over the last two years, and, once again, no more than 40% of 10th-graders in MPS were rated as proficient or better in any of the five areas tested by the state. For math and science, the figure is under 30%.

Amy Hetzner notes that Waukesha County’s test scores also slipped.
Notes and links regarding the rigor of Wisconsin DPI standards. DPI academic standards home page. Search individual school and district results here. The 2006 Math Forum discussed changes to the DPI math test and local results.
TJ Mertz reviews Wright Middle School’s results.
Chan Stroman’s June, 2007 summary of Madison WKCE PR, data and an interesting discussion. Notes on spin from Jason Spencer.
Jeff Henriques dove into the 2007 WKCE results and found that Madison tested fewer 10th graders than Green Bay, Appleton, Milwaukee and Kenosha. There’s also a useful discussion on Jeff’s post.
Advocating a Standard Grad Rate & Madison’s “2004 Elimination of the Racial Achievement Gap in 3rd Grade Reading Scores”.
Madison School District’s Press Release and analysis: Slight decline on WKCE; non-low income students shine

“Rainwater’s reign: Retiring school superintendent has made big impact”

Susan Troller on retiring Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater:

Later this month, a new contract between Dr. Daniel Nerad and the Madison Metropolitan School District will signal the end of an era. For over a decade, Art Rainwater has been at the helm of Madison’s public schools, guiding the district during a period of rapid demographic change and increasingly painful budget cutting. Both admirers and critics believe Rainwater has had a profound impact on the district.
Retiring Madison schools superintendent Art Rainwater may have the name of a poet, but his first ambition was to be a high school football coach.
“I grew up loving football — still do — especially the intellectual challenge of the game. I was obsessed with it,” Rainwater explained in a recent interview.
In fact, during his early years as an educator, Rainwater was so consumed by his football duties for a Catholic high school in Texas he eventually switched from coaching to school administration for the sake of his family.
In some ways, Rainwater has been an unusual person to lead Madison’s school district — an assertive personality in a town notorious for talking issues to death. His management style grows out of his coaching background — he’s been willing to make unpopular decisions, takes personal responsibility for success or failure, puts a premium on loyalty and hard work and is not swayed by armchair quarterbacks.

A few related links:

Much more on Art here. Like or loath him, Art certainly poured a huge amount of his life into what is a very difficult job. I was always amazed at the early morning emails, then, later, seeing him at an evening event. Best wishes to Art as he moves on.

Wisconsin’s Low State Test Score Standards (“The Proficiency Illusion”)

Alan Borsuk: The study found that “cut scores” – the line between proficient and not proficient – vary widely among the 26 states, casting doubt on the question of what it means when a state says a certain percentage of its students are doing well. Those percentages are central to the way the federal No … Continue reading Wisconsin’s Low State Test Score Standards (“The Proficiency Illusion”)

9/24/2007 Performance & Achievement Meeting: 4 Year Old Kindergarden & “A Model to Measure Student Performance with Ties to District Goals”

The Madison School Board’s Performance & Achievement Committee met Monday evening. Topics discussed included: 4 Year Old Kindergarden A Model to Measure Student Performance with Ties to District Goals (39 Minutes into the mp3 file). Growth vs status goals. MMSD proposes to adopt a “Valued Added” which will “control for the effects of different external … Continue reading 9/24/2007 Performance & Achievement Meeting: 4 Year Old Kindergarden & “A Model to Measure Student Performance with Ties to District Goals”

District SLC Grant – Examining the Data From Earlier Grants, pt. 2

An earlier posting examined the results of the small school initiative at Memorial high school. This post aims to examine West’s SLC grant. Similar to the Memorial grant, the goal of West’s SLC grant was to reduce the achievement gap and to increase students’ sense of community. The final report is a major source of … Continue reading District SLC Grant – Examining the Data From Earlier Grants, pt. 2

District SLC Grant – Examining the Data From Earlier Grants, pt. 1

The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) recently submitted a five year, $5 million grant proposal to the US Department of Education (DOE) to support the creation of Small Learning Communities (SLCs) in all four high schools (See here for post re. grant application). While the grant proposal makes mention of the two smaller SLC grants … Continue reading District SLC Grant – Examining the Data From Earlier Grants, pt. 1

“Value Added Assessment” Madison School Board’s Performance & Achievement Committee Looks at “A Model to Measure Student Performance”

Video / 20MB Mp3 Audio Superintendent Art Rainwater gave a presentation on “Value Added Assessment” to the Madison School Board’s Performance & Achievement committee Monday evening. Art described VAA “as a method to track student growth longitudinally over time and to utilize that data to look at how successful we are at all levels of … Continue reading “Value Added Assessment” Madison School Board’s Performance & Achievement Committee Looks at “A Model to Measure Student Performance”

Wisconsin State Student Test Scores Released

Andy Hall: Wisconsin students’ performances improved in math and held steady in reading, language arts, science and social studies, according to annual test data released today. Dane County students generally matched or exceeded state averages and paralleled the state’s rising math scores, although test results in Madison slipped slightly on some measures of reading, language … Continue reading Wisconsin State Student Test Scores Released

Madison United for Academic Excellence, 12-December-2006 Presentation

The Madison United for Academic Excellence (MUAE) meeting of 12-December-2006 offered a Question and Answer session with Madison Director of Teaching and Learning, Lisa Wachtel, and Brian Sniff, District K-12 Math Coordinator. A list of questions was prepared and given to the speakers in advance so they could address the specific concerns of parents. The … Continue reading Madison United for Academic Excellence, 12-December-2006 Presentation

One Small Step in the Right Direction at West HS …

In light of recent events regarding curriculum and other issues in our high schools, there has been a small step in the right direction at West HS. Superintendent Rainwater announced at our 11/29 MUAE meeting that he has been in discussion with West HS Principal Ed Holmes about providing West 9th and 10th graders who … Continue reading One Small Step in the Right Direction at West HS …

Video of 29-Nov-2006 MUAE Meeting with Supt. Rainwater

The Madison United for Academic Excellence (MUAE) meeting of 29-November-2006 offered a question and answer session with Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater. After opening remarks by Jeff Henriques, the Superintendent summarized his goals, rationale and approach to the high school redesign project, and discussed his prior experience as a teacher and principal. The video of the … Continue reading Video of 29-Nov-2006 MUAE Meeting with Supt. Rainwater

More Than English 10: Let’s REALLY Talk About Our High Schools

First, I want to say BRAVO, RUTH, for putting it all together and bringing it on home to us. Thanks, too, to the BOE members who overrode BOE President Johnny Winston Jr’s decision to table this important discussion. Finally, deepest thanks to all of the East parents, students and teachers who are speaking out … … Continue reading More Than English 10: Let’s REALLY Talk About Our High Schools

ACT scores are best in 20 years, with a catch, MMSD Curriculum & Upcoming Elections

The issue of curriculum quality and rigor continues to generate attention. P-I:

The good news is that the high school class of 2006 posted the biggest nationwide average score increase on the ACT college entrance exam in 20 years and recorded the highest scores of any class since 1991.
The bad news is that only 21 percent of the students got a passing grade in all four subject areas, including algebra and social science.
“The ACT findings clearly point to the need for high schools to require a rigorous, four-year core curriculum and to offer Advanced Placement classes so that our graduates are prepared to compete and succeed in both college and the work force,” Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in Washington, D.C.

Alan Borsuk has more:

Wisconsin high school graduates are better prepared to succeed in college than students nationwide – but that means only that more than 70% of state students are at risk of having trouble in one or more freshman-level subjects while the national figure is almost 80%, according to ACT, the college testing company.
The message still isn’t getting across,” Ferguson said in a telephone news conference. If students want to go to college and do well, they have to take high school seriously and take challenging courses, he said.
ACT results showed that students who took at least four years of English and three years each of math, science and social studies in high school did substantially better on the tests (22.9 in Wisconsin, 22.0 nationwide) than those who took lighter loads in those core areas (21.0 and 19.7, respectively).
Elizabeth Burmaster, Wisconsin’s superintendent of public instruction, said she believes that if schools in Wisconsin stay focused on efforts such as early childhood education and small class sizes in the early grades, combined with strong academic programs in middle school and high school, achievement will go up and racial and ethnic gaps will close.

Individual state data is available here.
Burmaster’s statement, along with the ACT information will increase the attention paid to curriculum issues, such as the ongoing questions over the Madison School District’s math program (See UW Math professor Dick Askey’s statement on the MMSD’s interpration and reporting of math scores). Will we stick with the “same service” approach? This very important issue will be on voters minds in November (referendum) and again in April, 2007 when 3 board seats are up for election. See also the West High School Math Faculty letter and a recent open letter to the Madison School District Board and Administration from 35 of the 37 UW Math Department faculty members. Vaishali Honawar has more.
The Madison School District issued a press release on the recent ACT scores (68% of Wisconsin high school graduates took the ACT – I don’t know what the MMSD’s percentage is):

Madison students who took the 2006 ACT college entrance exam continued to outperform their state and national peers by a wide margin, and the scores of Madison’s African-American test takers increased significantly. Madison students’ composite score of 24.2 (scale of 1 to 36) was higher for the 12th straight year than the composite scores of Wisconsin students and those across the nation (see table below). District students outscored their state peers by 9% (24.2 vs. 22.2,) and their national peers by 15% (24.2 vs. 21.1).
Compared to the previous year, the average ACT composite score among the district’s African-American students increased 6% — 18.8 vs. 17.7 last year. The gap between district African-American and white student ACT scores decreased this year. The relative difference this year was 24% (18.8 vs. 24.8) compared to 30% last year.
Scores also increased this year for the district’s Asian students (22.1 to 23.0) and Hispanic students (21.5 to 21.8).

The Madison School District recently published this summary of student performance vs other similar sized and nearby districts (AP, ACT and WKCE) here. Madison’s individual high schools scored as follows: East 22.9, LaFollette 22.1, Memorial 25.1 and West 25.5. I don’t have the % of students who took the ACT.

I checked with Edgewood High School and they have the following information: “almost all students take the ACT” and their composite score is “24.4”. Lakeside in Lake Mills averaged 24.6. Middleton High School’s was 25 in 2005. Verona High School’s numbers:

222 students took the ACT in 2005-2006.
Our composite score was 23.6 compared to the state at 22.2
87% of test takers proved college ready in English Composition (vs. 77%)
66% of test takers proved college ready in College Algebra (vs. 52%)
77% of test takers proved college ready in Social Science (vs. 61%)
45% of test takers proved college ready in Biology (vs. 35%)
37% of test takers proved college ready in all four areas (vs. 28%)
(#) as compared to the state %

Waunakee High School:

Score HS Mean (Core/Non-Core)
Composite 23.3 (24.3/21.5)
English 22.5 (23.9/19.5)
Mathematics 23.2 (24.2/21.8)
Reading 23.3 (24.1/21.5)
Science 23.7 (24.4/22.7)

McFarland High School’s 2006 Composite average was 23.7. 110 students were tested.
UPDATE: A few emails regarding these results:

  • On the Waunakee information:

    In the Waunakee information I sent to Jim Z, our mean for the Class of 2006 comes first, followed by the core/non-core in parentheses. So, our mean composite score for our 157 seniors who sat for the ACT was 23.3, the mean composite for those completing the ACT suggested core was 24.3, the mean composite for those who did not complete the core was 21.5.
    With ACT profile reports, the student information is self-reported. It’s reasonably accurate, but some students don’t fill in information about course patterns and demographics if it is not required.
    Please let me know if there are any other questions.

  • McFarland data:

    It appears that Jim Z’s chart comparing scores uses Waunakee’s “Core score” as opposed to the average composite that the other schools (at
    least McFaland) gave to Jim Z.. If Jim Z. wishes to report average “Core” for McFarland it is 24.5. Our non-core is 22.2 with our average composite 23.7.

  • More on the meaning of “Core”:

    Probably everyone is familiar with the ACT definition of core, but it’s 4 years of English, and three years each of math, science, and social studies. ACT is refining their position on what course patterns best position a student for undergraduate success, however.

Additional comments, data and links here

The School Testing Dodge

NY Times Editorial: Many of the nations that have left the United States behind in math and science have ministries of education with clear mandates when it comes to educational quality control. The American system, by contrast, celebrates local autonomy for its schools. When Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, it tried to … Continue reading The School Testing Dodge

Math Forum Audio / Video and Links

Video and audio from Wednesday’s Math Forum are now available [watch the 80 minute video] [mp3 audio file 1, file 2]. This rare event included the following participants: Dick Askey (UW Math Professor) Faye Hilgart, Madison Metropolitan School District Steffen Lempp (MMSD Parent and UW Math Professor) Linda McQuillen, Madison Metropolitan School District Gabriele Meyer … Continue reading Math Forum Audio / Video and Links

The State of High School Education in Wisconsin: A Tale of Two Wisconsins

Alan Borsuk on Phil McDade’s report for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute: [250K pdf] “The growing performance gap is largely influenced by socioeconomic factors beyond the influence of schools,” McDade said. “Property wealth, poverty and race were found to affect student performance.” The per-student spending difference was much smaller than the difference in test scores … Continue reading The State of High School Education in Wisconsin: A Tale of Two Wisconsins

School Improvement Plan at John Muir Elementary

L. Johnson: SIP Goal #2: Literacy-All students at John Muir will be proficient readers by the end of third grade. Rationale: 50% of African Americans beginning fourth graders have minimal or basic reading skills as measured by the WKCE test. As a school, all students need to demonstrate proficient or advanced reading and writing skills. … Continue reading School Improvement Plan at John Muir Elementary

Students Ace State Tests, but Earn D’s From U.S.

Sam Dillon, New York Times writes: “After Tennessee tested its eighth-grade students in math this year, state officials at a jubilant news conference called the results a “cause for celebration.” Eighty-seven percent of students performed at or above the proficiency level.” The WKCE test taken in Fall 2005 (reported in Spring 2005) shows statewide percent … Continue reading Students Ace State Tests, but Earn D’s From U.S.

I am Greatly Distressed About La Follette High School’s Four Block System

Dear La Follette Parents & Taxpayers, I am writing because I am greatly distressed about conditions at La Follette High School under the 4-block system. I strongly believe that as parents and taxpayers you have the right to be included in the debate about your child’s education. Because I believe the future of the 4-block … Continue reading I am Greatly Distressed About La Follette High School’s Four Block System

Ruth Robarts Letter to the Isthmus editor on MMSD Reading Progress

Ruth Robarts wrote:

Thanks to Jason Shepard for highlighting comments of UW Psychology Professor Mark Seidenberg at the Dec. 13 Madison School Board meeting in his article, Not all good news on reading. Dr. Seidenberg asked important questions following the administrations presentation on the reading program. One question was whether the district should measure the effectiveness of its reading program by the percentages of third-graders scoring at proficient or advanced on the Wisconsin Reading Comprehension Test (WRCT). He suggested that the scores may be improving because the tests arent that rigorous.
I have reflected on his comment and decided that he is correct.
Using success on the WRCT as our measurement of student achievement likely overstates the reading skills of our students. The WRCT—like the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) given in major subject areas in fourth, eighth and tenth grades— measures student performance against standards developed in Wisconsin. The more teaching in Wisconsin schools aims at success on the WRCT or WKCE, the more likely it is that student scores will improve. If the tests provide an accurate, objective assessment of reading skills, then rising percentages of students who score at the proficient and advanced levels would mean that more children are reaching desirable reading competence.
However, there are reasons to doubt that high percentages of students scoring at these levels on the WRCT mean that high percentages of students are very proficient readers. High scores on Wisconsin tests do not correlate with high scores on the more rigorous National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.
In 2003, 80% of Wisconsin fourth graders scored proficient or advanced on the WCKE in reading. However, in the same year only 33% of Wisconsin fourth graders reached the proficient or advanced level in reading on the NAEP. Because the performance of Madison students on the WCKE reading tests mirrors the performance of students statewide, it is reasonable to conclude that many of Madisons proficient and advanced readers would also score much lower on the NAEP. For more information about the gap between scores on the WKCE and the NAEP in reading and math, see EdWatch Online 2004 State Summary Reports at www.edtrust.org.
Next year the federal No Child Left Behind Act replaces the Wisconsin subject area tests with national tests. In view of this change and questions about the value of WRCT scores, its time for the Board of Education to review its benchmarks for progress on its goal of all third-graders reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
Ruth Robarts
Member, Madison Board of Education

Art Rainwater’s Email regarding Reading First

Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater sent me an email today regarding this paper. Here’s his email: Dear Jim I received a copy of your email to Diane Mayerfeld regarding reading in the Madison Schools. I would like to set straight the misinformation that is contained in the document that you included with your email. First … Continue reading Art Rainwater’s Email regarding Reading First