'Atypical' drops in math, reading prompt curricular changes in Oak Creek-Franklin School District

June 24, 2014

Oak Creek — Oak Creek-Franklin School District acknowledged surprise in "atypical" drops in standardized test scores, which fell below the state average this year, in seventh and 10th grades especially.

In response, new math and literacy facilitators are working to personalize instruction in Oak Creek Franklin Joint School District classrooms to help bump up the results.

Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations test results showed drops in math among seventh-graders, and reading and math among 10th-graders, according to data provided by Chad Evenson, curriculum coordinator for school district.

WKCE is a state test given to all third- through eighth-graders, as well as sophomores. It is taken every fall.

Shy of the goal

"We don't like to have anything below the state average, so those are always areas of concern," said Evenson. "We believe the minimum in our district is the state average and we want to build from there."

"In past years, there has been a drop, but not to this extent," he added.

Trends lines in other subjects like language arts, science and social studies were predominantly positive. Reading and math scores also showed positive growth in grades three, four, five, six and eight.

Evenson presented WKCE test results during the School Board meeting on May 19. Board members were also confused, and dismayed, by the results.

"I can't think of a single reason why we should have scores below the state average. It shocks me. I did not expect to see that tonight," said Paul Mason, during the May 19 meeting. While some public attendees questioned how you can pinpoint the core problem when test results fall short of expectations, Superintendent Sara Burmeister said: "It's a curricular issue."

Seeking new strategy

The district had previously hired one math and one literacy facilitator for the 2013-14 school year to begin working with teachers to personalize curriculum.

One of the strategies proposed is a workshop model, which affords one-on-one group conferencing or mini-lessons, said Jackie Cebertowicz, math facilitator.

"It doesn't presume that just because you are a seventh-grader that you are where a seventh-grader would be at a certain period of time," said Cebertowicz.

"It individualizes the content that students see so that everyone is appropriately challenged," added Evenson.

New technology has helped bridge the gap.

Online resources such as MobyMax and ALEKS provides tutoring, assessment, goal setting and practice problems that are specific to students.

"Both of those resources allow us to pinpoint student strength and need," said Evenson.

Teachers can also look at online data to make adjustments to the curriculum as needed, said Cebertowicz.

Next year, middle school classes will run for 80 minutes, rather than 50, to help accommodate the workshop model, said Evenson. He will also continue working with ninth graders in the START program to help the transition from middle to high school.

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