For the second straight year, Ames School had the highest scores in the Landmark’s coverage area on the still controversial, state-mandated PARCC exam which is given annually to all public school students in grades three through eight.
At Ames School, 62.5 percent of students met or exceeded expectations on the test given last spring, a slight increase from the 61.4 percent which did so in 2015. The test measured English Language Arts (ELA) and math.
Elsewhere in Riverside Elementary District 96, 56 percent of Central School students met or exceeded expectations, while 50 percent of Hollywood School students and 48.5 percent of Blythe Park School students met or exceeded expectations.
Ames is the most ethnically diverse school in District 96. Last year 52.7 percent of Ames students were white, 39 percent were Hispanic, 3.6 percent were black, and 3.1 percent were Asian according to state records. Nearly 14 percent of Ames students were classified as low-income.
“We attribute the success of our students at Ames to having supportive families and student-centered classroom teachers who take ownership for their student’s learning and growth,” said Ames School Principal Todd Gierman in an email. “The achievement of our students at Ames is definitely a team effort.”
In District 96 as a whole, 56 percent of students of students met or exceeded expectations, a drop of just one point from last year. Statewide only 33 percent of students met or exceeded expectations. Another 26 percent of District 96 students fell into the middle category of “approaching” expectations.
At L.J. Hauser Junior High School, scores dropped a bit. In 2016, 53 percent of Hauser students met or exceeded expectations compared to 55 percent who did so in 2015.
Scores in District 96 generally followed the state pattern of increasing a little bit in math and dropping a bit in English Language Arts, which is basically reading comprehension. In 2015, 61 percent of District 96 students met or exceeded state standards in ELA. In 2016, 55 percent did.
Educators noted that the PARCC exam was different and shorter than its debut in 2015, making comparisons between years difficult.
However, Merryl Brownlow, District 96’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the district is in the process of revamping its approach to teaching ELA to better align its instruction to the skills tested on the PARCC exam.
“Our core curriculum wasn’t aligned to what the test was asking kids to do,” Brownlow said.
Brownlow said that the slight drop in scores in District 96 could perhaps be attributed to fact that three times the number of District 96 students opted out of the PARCC exam this year compared to last year.
In 2016, a total of 37 students in District 96 opted out of the ELA portion of the exam compared to just 11 in 2015. In math, 36 District 96 students opted out of the exam last spring compared to just 12 who did so last year.
“Most of those students [who opted out of taking the exam were our high-performing students,” Brownlow said.
D95 scores up a bit
Scores improved slightly in Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 in 2016. At S.E. Gross Middle School, 41 percent of students met or exceeded expectations compared to 37 percent in 2015.
Another 36 percent partially met expectations last spring compared to 33 percent in 2015.
In math, the percentage of S.E. Gross students meeting or exceeding expectations rose from 26 percent to 32 percent. In ELA, Gross students bucked the state trend of declining scores by increasing the percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations to 50 percent from 47 percent.
“We are progressing across the board,” said Ryan Evans the principal at S.E. Gross. “We focused on aligning with the Common Core [and] we brought in a new a new writing curriculum; all these things in concert play a role in that.”
District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski doesn’t think much of the PARCC exam and said he doesn’t pay much attention to the scores.
“They just don’t give us anything valuable or reliable,” Kuzniewski said.
Kuzniewski says another test his district and other local districts use, the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, is a much more useful tool for determining how much students are learning and for adapting instruction to student needs.
Mixed bag in D94, 102, 103
Scores dropped at Komarek School in North Riverside in 2016, with 36 percent of students meeting or exceeding expectations compared the 40 percent who did so in 2015.
District 94 Superintendent Brian Ganan said that it was hard to compare year-to-year results because the PARCC exam had changed.
“It’s really so hard to put your pulse on it, because the test was different again this year,” Ganan.
At Congress Park School in southwest Brookfield, 49 percent of students met or exceeded state averages, up one point from 2015. The most diverse school in LaGrange-Brookfield District 102, 45 percent of Congress Park students are classified as low-income.
Across all schools in District 102, 63 percent of student met or exceeded expectations.
At Lincoln School, part of Lyons-Brookfield District 103 in southeast Brookfield, where 68 percent of the students are from low income families, just 19 percent of students met or exceeded expectations while another 29 percent fell into the middle category of approached expectations. Lincoln’s scores slightly improved from 2015, when only 17 percent met expectations.