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D161 begins assessing the assessment data, recognizes achievements, more

With fall assessments now in the rearview mirror, Flossmoor School District 161 officials are unpacking some of the data gained from them and trying to figure out what it means as a unique school year progresses.

Officials discussed the results of the NWEA MAP and aimswebPlus assessments on Monday, Oct. 26, during a special meeting of D161 Board of Education, including data trends throughout the district, parent communication of student performance data, and the implementation of school improvement plans.

Both tests were administered remotely this fall.

Many of the averages reported for the NWEA MAP math and reading assessments were near, at or above the national norms across grade levels. But a report to the board noted NWEA scores show performance gaps between “all students” and student groups, such as those who are low-income or special education.

Amabel Crawford, D161’s director of learning and instruction, said that gap is something they will watch throughout the year.

“What happens is that gap can widen over the school year, so we want to keep an eye on that,” she said.

The aimswebPlus assessment, which similarly tested numeracy/math and early literacy/reading by grade level, saw higher high-risk percentages for students in kindergarten and first grade than at other grade levels in D161.

In the fall math exams, grades 2-8 had between 12% and 21% of students categorized as high-risk, which means not on track and typically well-below grade level, likely necessitating individualized instructional intervention to meet end-of-year targets, per board documents. But in kindergarten the high-risk number jumped to 31%, while in first grade it was 40%. Those grade levels also had higher percentages of moderate-risk students in math.

When it came to reading, grades 2-8 saw high-risk numbers from as low as 3% to as high as 14%. But kindergarteners were 41% high-risk, while first-graders were 49% high-risk. Again, kindergarteners had a higher moderate-risk percentage, though that category saw a lower percentage in first-grade.

“Our K-1 students are at a higher risk than I would like to see,” said Jackie Janicke, the district’s director of special education.

Janicke said they will be working with grade levels on those core skills, and progress will be monitored based on benchmarks. Officials are expecting jumps in the spring, and noted in the board packet that school closures and remote assessment “may have had the greatest impact on primary students.”

“We really want to see that growth target being met near the end of the year,” Janicke said.

Parker Jr. High School seventh-graders Cesar Evans, Mia Caporale and Ruby Mikulski were recognized for being selected among the Top 10 students in the country for the Kidizenship Fly Your Flag contest.

Students were asked to create flags that celebrate or challenge a national symbol. Creativity was key, with an aim to speak about what the flag represents to the students.

D161 also recognized October as National Principals Month and Oct. 18-24 as Principals Week, as proclaimed by the State of Illinois.

D161 principals, in particular, were recognized at the meeting for their leadership, commitment and passion for helping students learn and succeed.

“We’re always very proud of our principals,” Superintendent Dana Smith said. “They’re always there, and they’re always working for our kids.”

Board President Michelle Hoereth added, “There are no words to describe how much we love each and every one of you.”

Locking it up
Eric Melnyczenko, D161’s director of human resources, pitched NortonLifeLock to the school board as a possible employee benefit during discussions. There is no cost to the district, he said, but it would give staff the option of signing up for cybersecurity software and services at a rate of $7.99 per month, roughly 60% less than what they would pay individually.

Melnyczenko noted people are working remotely and using personal resources to do so. Dealing with issues related to those resources being compromised can be both timely and costly.

“We want to make sure we offer some protection for our employees,” Melnyczenko said. “LifeLock takes care of that work.”

Melnyczenko added that there has been a recent rash of fraudulent unemployment claims. In D161, three employees as of the Oct. 26 meeting have had to deal with issues in which people have obtained their information and tried to file claims by pretending to be them. A few teachers have received Illinois Department of Employment Security cards at home that they did not request.

“We’re dealing with some of those,” Melnyczenko said. “This problem is rampant. People are trying to take advantage right now.”

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