Archive for Thursday, November 29, 2001

Through assessments, district sees how many students away Standard of Excellence rating is

November 29, 2001

Eudora students may not have earned the Standard of Excellence distinction on their state assessment test, but without comparing their scores to the state standards it may be difficult to tell just how close they came in some cases.

That's what Officer of Academic Affairs Mindy Salmans showed the Eudora Board of Education at its Nov. 15 meeting.

The district can break down the scores to see just how many more students it would take in each category to reach the Standard of Excellence Level. For instance, of the 81 seventh-graders who took the math assessment tests in 2001, about 20 students would have had to score in the advanced level on the tests to earn the distinction. The results show about 19 Eudora students scored in the highest rank, putting them just under the state minimum.

Likewise, no more than about eight students could have scored at the unsatisfactory level. With about 11 students scoring unsatisfactory, Eudora was only about three students away from earning the distinction.

Since the tests aren't intended to be compared between schools, Board President Mark Chrislip asked Salmans what, then, was the district supposed to take away from the results.

"It's humanly natural to compare," Chrislip said.

Knowing raw numbers, not just percentages, can be a great tool for teachers, Salmans said.

"The teachers attribute names to the numbers and get on a very personal basis," she said.

Teachers can go back over the years and see if the same students are scoring in the same places and ask themselves some questions.

"Are we teaching to the middle?" Salmans said. "Which group of kids are moving up and what's making the difference? It takes time to knock it down to where it gets on a personal level."

Board member Brenda Clark said it seemed like the assessments tested what teachers teach, not forcing schools to teach to the test.

Knowing how teachers can use the tests to target individual students and particular subject matter, school board member Greg Neis said, made him more confident the tests served a purpose.

"We can look at the individual student rather than worrying about comparing ourselves to De Soto," said school board member Greg Neis.

Clark saw potential problems with how teachers can use the results.

"I'm sure this is all extremely beneficial to the teachers, but how much work is it adding?" Clark asked.

"A lot," said Eudora High School Principal Dale Sample.

Clark was also concerned with the results of the 11th grade reading assessments, where 29 percent scored at the basic level and 11 percent at the unsatisfactory level.

"What I looked at is that we've got 40 percent of kids who are below average," Clark said.

In regards to the color-coded charts which put low-end scores in blue, Salmons said, "We want a smaller amount of our students in the blues."

In addition to comparing Eudora scores to other schools, Salmans also warned against comparing one grade to another.

"Elementary (tests) have a lot more basic facts," she said. "High school has a lot more application."

Salmans emphasized having data means the district can see exactly what needs to be improved rather than focusing on certain areas based on opinion or intuition.

"Without data, all we have is an opinion," she said. "This data is helping us know."

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