Test scores dip at District 97

Officials say the decline is due to implementation of new curriculum

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Scores on the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) spring exam and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam came in lower this year than last in Oak Park Elementary Schools District 97, according to an annual student performance report released by D97 officials last month. They attributed the decline to a new curriculum, implemented during the 2016-17 academic year.

Among all students who took the MAP exam, 57 percent were projected to be college-ready in reading, while 45 percent of test-takers were projected to be college-ready in math. 

The most recent MAP scores reflect a slight dip over the 2015-16 total scores, when 61 percent and 52 percent of D97 students who took the test, respectively, were projected to be college-ready in reading and math. 

Until last school year, total MAP scores in reading had climbed steadily since 2012-13, when 55 percent of students were projected to be college-ready. 

The MAP exam is administered twice a year, in the spring and fall, to second-grade and eighth-grade students and is used to measure student growth and attainment compared to a national norm. 

Fifty-one percent of all D97 students who took the exam in the spring of the 2016-17 school year met or exceeded their target growth level in reading while 45 percent met or exceeded their target growth level in math. 

"Overall, reading continues to be the stronger subject area for growth in D97," read the report, which was drafted by Emily Fenske, the district's director of organizational learning, and Amy Warke, the district's chief academic and accountability officer. 

The 2016-17 growth levels in reading on the spring assessment are at their lowest point since 2012-13, when 57 percent of D97 students met or exceeded their target growth level on the spring MAP. 

As previously reported by Wednesday Journal, overall scores among D97 students on the PARCC exam were also down for 2016-17. Forty-nine percent of D97 students met or exceeded state standards on that exam, down from 51 percent last school year. 

"While these results are disappointing, we recognize that the implementation of new curricula for writing, math, science, and social-emotional learning in 2016-17 was a set of major transitions for the district," wrote Fenske and Warke. 

"It is normal, and somewhat expected, to see an 'implementation dip' in the first year of these new initiatives," they explained. "We remain proud of the direction these new curricula are taking us in, and of the hard work our teachers and staff undertook to implement them with fidelity in 2016-17." 

The administrators added that they expect to see performance on both the MAP and PARCC exams improve over the next several years as teachers become familiar with the new curriculum. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com  

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Ramona Lopez  

Posted: November 16th, 2017 9:55 AM

It's unfortunate that we can't compare private school test scores to D97. I would be curious to see how Montessori, Ascension, St. Giles, etc, kids do vs. D97. I guess it doesn't matter, because the "social agenda" is so entrenched in D97 that even if you present them with facts and evidence, they won't budge.

Jenna Brown Russell  

Posted: November 15th, 2017 9:03 PM

@Patricia, your children are clearly getting more than a wasted hour from second step that my children are not. We got a lot from the GT programming, but that wasn't properly socially emotionally geared.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: November 15th, 2017 7:32 PM

I like the social-emotional curriculum additions. This is a more complex world han the one we grew up in. They should just call it the "Survival" curriculum. That's what it is. That said, and as much as I love my kids teachers and staff at our school, they never get homework or what they get can be done on the bus ride home. Maybe the kids need to work a little after school?

Bruce Kline  

Posted: November 15th, 2017 4:04 PM

Mike: In my opinion, people like Fenske and Warke - with their ludicrous Orwellian job titles - view D97 enrollees as a captured cohort, there for the express purpose of testing their latest and greatest social engineering speculations. No matter if their social experiments fail. They always have an inane excuse as to why - and will double down on their nonsensical initiatives. For them, equity and diversity training has supplanted proficiency in the classic and basic foundational disciplines. And the dismal results prove that. Not to worry though Mike, more "social-emotional" engineering gibberish yet to come.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: November 15th, 2017 2:24 PM

Perhaps I've found the problem in why many of our kids are performing below expectations in D97 - from the 3rd from last paragraph: "While these results are disappointing, we recognize that the implementation of new curricula for writing, math, science, and social-emotional learning in 2016-17 was a set of major transitions for the district," wrote Fenske and Warke. Maybe if we spent less time and money on "social-emotional learning" (whatever that is) and more on "writing, math, science".....our children would do A LOT better! Yes, I do recall the "build it and they will excel" strategy of the two middle schools. Further, we have the "Early Childhood" that we are spending millions are. The problem certainly isn't a lack of spending or the classroom teachers....should we re-evaluate that "new curriculum" and the inclusion of "social-emotional learning"? Again, whatever that is.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2017 12:40 PM

My question is what are you actually measuring? My son always liked taking these test. They were multiple choice. He would make "C" for every questions then put his head down and rest. I hope they don't use these scores.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2017 12:11 AM

As long as the people in charge think a 45% or 51% success rate is normal, everyone in town should be terrified. And then they spend time on social-emotional learning, whatever that is. Can we please fire the people who planned this new curriculum.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: November 14th, 2017 4:48 PM

We obviously need to hire more "equity" co-ordinators, instructors and staff. Throw in a few more "academic and accountability" people, too. Clearly, we don't have enough of these people (whatever they do - it doesn't seem to be helping) and the abysmal test results reflect this. How about another tax increase and then we'll do more to "teach to the test?" A quick look at the accompanying graph is concerning - maybe there is a reason why every student isn't in "the honor's program"?

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