Archive for Thursday, October 21, 2004

Assessment scores online

District bridging the gap for economically disadvantaged

October 21, 2004

In many cases, more of Eudora's economically-disadvantaged students -- those who qualify for free and reduced lunch -- scored unsatisfactory on state reading and math assessment tests this year than in 2003. However, this year many of those students also broke into the highest categories -- proficient, advanced and exemplary.
For instance, more fourth-graders in the economically disadvantaged category scored in the lowest category for math -- up almost 8 percent. Yet the number of students in the second-lowest category, "basic," shrunk from 40.7 percent to 5.3 percent. That meant more students this year moved into the proficient, advanced and exemplary categories for fourth-grade math.
Districts are trying to bridge the gap between the achievement of economically disadvantaged students and their economically advantaged peers. That means No Child Left Behind puts the district's focus on getting students out of the lowest scoring categories, said Superintendent Marty Kobza. However, Kobza also said Eudora's schools were also concerned with getting already-proficient students to perform at the advanced and exemplary levels.
"We're trying to (improve) across the board," Kobza said.
Results of students' assessment tests and demographic information about Eudora USD 491 are now available from the Kansas Department of Education on the Web at www.ksde.org. Students are tested each spring in a variety of core subjects at different grade levels. For instance, the state always tests 11th-graders for reading and 10th-graders for math.
Eudora has less than a quarter of its students classified as economically disadvantaged, compared with 37 percent statewide. But Kobza said No Child had districts looking at individual students. That meant even one or two economically disadvantaged students got the district's attention.
The numbers of both economically disadvantaged and advantaged students scoring in the lowest categories, Kobza said, was in part because of the educational philosophy in place -- a philosophy the district is working to change.
For instance, the traditional model says students have a set amount of time to learn a concept, and if they don't, they fail. Now, Kobza said the district was recognizing the fact that students learn at different paces. In response, he said Eudora schools were implementing programs that addressed students' individual needs.
"Once we understand their issues, we write a prescription for them and get them where they need to be," he said.
Such prescriptions include a writing program at Nottingham that has students learning writing both traditionally -- integrated with reading -- and as separate subject like music or P.E. The district also has a new special reading program at the middle school that integrates reading into social studies.
Kobza said such programs weren't a quick fix. But he said the students now in fifth grade and those younger have had the advantage of the district's new philosophies
"Every year we should see some positive changes in our scores," Kobza said.
The district has to deal with students who haven't had the benefit of early intervention, and Kobza said some students would always need an extra boost. Regardless, he said the district's goal was to get all groups of students on an even keel.
"We want to design our system in such a way those assessment scores will be consistent," Kobza said. "Our system will take a group of kids and get them to the level we need them to be."

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