Archive for Thursday, December 12, 2002

Tests show strengths, areas to improve

December 12, 2002

The state assessment tests USD 491 students took last school year reflect the accomplishment of a standard of excellence designation for seventh-grade math students and also areas where students didn't do as well as the district had hoped, said Mindy Salmans, the district's officer of academic affairs.

"That means we have an opportunity to pay attention to that area and not assign fault or place blame but figure out how we can help students," she said.

A quick breakdown shows that in addition to seventh grade, all Eudora students tested in reading scored higher than the state average.That was also true in fourth- and seventh-grade math. Fifth-graders, who were tested in writing, scored higher on composite mean trait scores than students across Kansas, too.

The 10th-graders fell below the state average on math, and 11th-graders fell below the state in writing, with their eighth-grade counterparts nearly tying with the state. Because tests in the upper-grade levels are geared more toward application than knowledge, which is emphasized for the younger students, it was difficult to compare one grade to the next, Salmans said. Math assessments have their own problems, too.

"Kids are at so many different levels," she said of high school students. "In 10th grade, some are assessed in areas they haven't learned yet. It is an issue across the state."

The state assessments, which test a different group of students at the same grade level each year in rotating subject matters, help the district track individual students and examine curriculum.

"Our main concern is that individual student and seeing each student improve," Salmans said.

When she presented the information to the Board of Education during its November meeting, Board members commented on how they were glad to see the tests being put to use to assist the individual student.

Because of variables like curriculum, location and social situations, districts hesitate to compare themselves with other districts. Traditionally, Salmans said, districts see how they were doing compared with the state as a whole.

With the No Child Left Behind Act, however, she said the district would no longer be concerned with the state as a whole but rather whether individual students met the required satisfactory and above levels. Because each state sets their own standards and Kansas' are notoriously tough Salmans said the state's students would have their work cut out for them.

However, to evaluate Eudora schools the district relies on a three-pronged approach that includes the assessments, the Iowa Basic Skills test and performance assessments created by each building for each level.

With the No Child Left Behind Act in full swing during the 2005-2006 school year, Salmans said computerized testing would give immediate feedback, and teachers would be able to assign grades for assessment tests, underscoring their importance. Moreover, parents would be let in on the process and a part of examining what the scores mean. This year's scores are available at any office in the district.

"It's a challenge to the school district to get that information to them in a way they can understand," Salmans said.

Despite the achievement in the seventh-grade and the 11th-graders social studies standard of excellence score the year before, Salmans said the district and students shouldn't get lazy.

"We're not going to stop here," she said. "When you hit it you realize it can be done, and it means you want to work harder."

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