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Homewood students meeting expectations on standardized reading, math tests

Homewood District 153’s fourth graders have shown consistent progress on standardized reading and math tests that officials say coincides with recent curriculum changes, and students’ scores overall show they are meeting expectations in these core subjects.
Midwest Analytics and Education LLC consultants shared STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) assessment data with the school board Tuesday, Oct. 16.
Homewood schools administer STAR assessments at the beginning and end of each academic year to get more immediate and detailed data than is provided through state-mandated PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) tests.
Consultant Dave Kush explained that students in lower grades showed more progress from fall to spring last year than students in higher grades. He said this is partially because of how the test is structured and because younger students have more to learn.
“As they work their way through the system, they grow a little bit less each year, and some of that is not to be surprising,” he said. “If you were to start off a student who has no reading skills in a reading program, they are going to learn an awful lot.”
Consultant Tim Lava said the company has five years of STAR data for all grade levels, which it uses to establish growth patterns by grade level and other subgroups. Consultants also estimate how students should perform on spring tests based on their fall scores.
Last year’s data shows most students scoring in the “green zone,” or within their expected ranges, Lava said.
“It is very tough given the amount of data we have and the growth patterns we established to move those dots from one color to another, so the fact that they’re in the middle and they were hitting in the green zone, that’s a good thing,” Lava said.
Lava also pointed out that the current class of fourth graders and students who were fourth graders last year moved back into the green zone, which he said suggests the district’s math initiative and curriculum changes are working.
“When we see that jump, especially with the same cohort – last year’s fourth grade jumping into this year’s fifth grade – that’s a pretty remarkable gain,” Lava said. “Anything that was missing last year, or gaps that may have been there, those gaps have definitely closed when you see a jump like that.”
Superintendent Dale Mitchell said the district has been working with Midwest Analytics since 2015 when the state began requiring the incorporation of student growth into teacher and principal evaluations.
“When I looked at the chart, all the kids are growing as we would expect them from one year to the next, and the one group of kids, because they got a new curriculum, were able to catch up,” Mitchell said.
He said data review teams at each school use the test scores to plan interventions for students, and some will retake the exam mid-year to check if the interventions are working.
Kush said the next step will be to create longitudinal reports that will allow school officials to review all information available about a particular student at one time, including PARCC and STAR data.
Teachers will also be encouraged to identify and implement common assessments to enhance this data, such as a small homework assignment or quiz, he said.
“That allows them to have some conversation about that within the period of instruction —  not at the end of the quarter — where they can intercede on that learning and help students do better,” Kush said.
Board President Shelly Marks said she appreciated having the consultants make sense of the test data. She also said that while the students’ achievements are a “testament to what’s going on in the classroom,” the focus should always be on learning and not on test scores alone.
“It’s a piece of information that helps us help kids learn better, but it’s only one piece,” Marks said.

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