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Local student academic performance slowly improves
From pandemic lows

SOUTHWEST WISCONSIN - After more than two years of pandemic pandemonium, students in Wisconsin’s public schools are slowly regaining lost academic ground. That’s the message from the state’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI), which released standardized test scores on September 29 for the state’s 420 public school districts.

That’s generally true for students in the Boscobel Area School District, which saw improvements in all the scores measured. But the district still lags behind state achievement.

The department measures achievement largely with a series of standardized tests: The Forward Exam, which tests students in grades three through eight, and grade ten; the ACT Aspire test of ninth and tenth graders; and the ACT college entrance exam taken by juniors. Students with significant cognitive disabilities receive a different set of tests.

Taken together, these assessments form a key component of the state-mandated school and district “report cards,” which are scheduled for public release on November 15 after private student data is removed from the versions sent to each district.

Local results

The department classifies student scores as “advanced,” “proficient,” “basic,” and “below basic,” and charts progress over time by comparing the proficient group from one year to the next.

By this measure, students at Boscobel have shown improvement, both in the lower and upper grades. On the Forward exam, 36.3 percent of students tested proficient in mathematics this year, up about 5 percent from last year. 30.8 percent achieved proficiency in English language arts, up from 28.3 percent. Still, that score lags about 10 and 8 points behind state-level scores respectively.

Of the school districts bordering Boscobel, Fennimore, River Ridge, Riverdale, and Wauzeka/Steuben all tested at scores higher than the state average. Highland, Richland, and North Crawford all trail the state averages.

When it comes to college entrance exams, students performed similarly. Boscobel scores came in at 23.2 and 19.6 percent proficient for language arts and math, respectively. Boscobel, Fennimore, River Ridge, Riverdale, and Wauzeka/Steuben improved scores over last year, while Highland, Richland, and North Crawford declined.

Imperfect picture

Standardized tests have long been criticized as a measure of student achievement. Extensive research demonstrates that a variety of factors, including race and economic hardship, drive test scores down.

Wealthier students tend to live in wealthier neighborhoods where schools, funded by real estate taxes, reap the rewards. And at the other end of the spectrum, working class and lower income families are often stretched, stressed, and less able to support their kids academically.

Out of the 420 school districts assessed, Boscobel, Wauzeka/Steuben, and Highland, fall in the top 50 districts ranked by the percentage of students experiencing economic hardship. North Crawford ranks at 24.

“We know that socioeconomic hardships correlate to lower scores,” explained Brandon Munson, District Administrator for North Crawford, who said that currently, 67 percent of the student body are eligible for free and reduced lunch. “That’s pretty significant.” The school also has a higher-than-average percentage of students who qualify for special education services.

Last year, only 8.3 and 4.2 percent of students at the school tested proficient in language arts and math on the college entrance exam.

Munson said he believes achievement can be turned around and pointed to a new reading program in the lower grades, extensive after-school programs, and additional staffing to help close gaps as measures that should make a difference in time.

“We are concerned about lower test scores, and we are hopeful that these interventions are going to make a difference,” he said. “State assessments are a one shot, flash in the pan. A student might not have been having a good day on that one day that they had to take the standardized test. We do a lot of our own district assessments here in the classroom to hopefully paint a more accurate picture of achievement.” @font-face {font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-font-charset:78; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1791491579 18 0 131231 0;}@font-face {font-family:"Cambria Math"; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1107305727 0 0 415 0;}@font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1073743103 0 0 415 0;}@font-face {font-family:NewYork; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-alt:"Times New Roman"; mso-font-charset:77; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:auto; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;}p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";}.MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-size:10.0pt; mso-ansi-font-size:10.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size:10.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;}div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;}