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WKCE results reveal academic riches

By Logan Fassbinder
posted April 18, 2011

Sophomores had large expectations to fulfill in November, as 419 students sat down to take the WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination), generating scores that act as a sampling for the academic success of the Oshkosh Area School District (OASD). Nearly five months later, test results for the class show increases from the scores of prior years, with only minor drops in others.

“Overall, the scores look very good for the district. They are higher than the state’s by far,” said Director of Curriculum and Instruction Shelly Muza. “We’ve extremely outperformed the state average. The scores continue to be very high among the valley and the other schools that we compare ourselves to.”

District wide, 84.1% of students scored proficient or advanced in reading, comparable to the state average of 74.1%. Also, 85.7% of students scored proficient or advanced in mathematics, comparable to 70.9% as the state average.

“Standardized testing is like a dipstick, and it’s going to measure how well a school performs and how well a school district is performing,” said Assistant Principal Matthew Zimmermann. “Overall our test results are fairly decent. However, from the perspective of always wanting to do better, we would like more of our students to be in that advanced range, because honestly that’s probably a more accurate indication of the skills that you need to be successful after high school”

While progress was made in most subjects, improvements from last year’s scores were minimal. One theory for the lack of significant gains was the continuation of the incentive first offered to last year’s sophomores, which stated that those students earning proficient or advanced on the WKCE had the option to opt out of some of their second semester finals.

“You know, we didn’t get the jump that we got last year,” said Zimmermann. “Part of the reason that we got a jump in students at proficient or advanced was because of the fact that we offered the incentive, so there wasn’t any difference this year. So our scores stayed pretty much status quo.”

Despite West’s commendable scores, the question of whether the WKCE will still be in place for future years is uncertain. State level officials are looking at the potential replacement of the WKCE with a new Smarter Balanced Assessment. What the new assessment would contain is unclear, but its implementation is planned for the 2014 school year.

“The testing period will most likely be moved from the beginning of sophomore year to the end of junior year. They will also probably test different things and that will be correlated to the common core standards,” said Muza. “There’s also potential for the ACT to be used for the test. So the test will definitely look different.”

Whether the WKCE is replaced in the future, the goal to constantly improve education continues.

“We have made adequate annual yearly progress every year. The problem gets into when you break it down by disability status; break it down by race and ethnicity depending on the sample size,” said Zimmermann. “We need to make sure that those students with disabilities are scoring so that there is not an achievement gap. ”

To combat these variations in test scores among sub-groups, administration has implemented various programs to keep students aimed towards success.

“Our thought is, is that to boost that graduation rate, we’re going to have to have students who are capable of scoring proficient or advanced on the WKCE,” said Zimmerman. “In order to do that we needed to institute a school wide early intervention system.”

Along with an early intervention program, administration is looking at improving learning in specific subjects areas.

“A couple years ago we noticed that reading was an area we needed to improve, specifically in those students identified with learning disabilities,” said Zimmermann. “So we really did a big push on reading in the content area and boosting reading strategies.”

While administration continues to take in the WKCE results and plan for improvements in education, most sophomores are just happy to be finished with the test.

“It’s always long and arduous,” said sophomore Matt Niesen. “It’s not very difficult, but it’s important to the school. I’m glad it’s over with and that I never have to take it again.”

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