Test data makes Avoca 37 proud
Avoca West School student Emma Taylor takes part in a during science lab dealing with a force and motion project on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, at the school in Glenview. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 9, 2013 1:21AM
GLENVIEW — The fourth-grade math class graph projects hanging in an Avoca West School hallway made Avoca District 37 Superintendent Kevin Jauch grin when he saw them last week.
After all, he said, educators regularly use graph data — students’ reading, math and science test scores for example — to find out how students are doing, then decide how to help them do even better. Besides being a tool for his staff, test scores also help tell parents and the public how the school district they fund does compared to districts elsewhere.
In District 37, whose two-school k-8 population hails from Wilmette, Northfield, Glenview and Winnetka, the news is good. Over the past six years, the number of students who exceed state standards (in the Illinois Standard Achievement Test, or ISAT) has regularly gone up.
Between 2007 and 2012, District 37’s “exceeds” rate in science rose from 42.5 percent to 64.5 percent. In reading, it went from 47.8 percent to 58.3 percent, and students exceeding state math standards jumped from 58.7 to 73.5 percent in the same time.
Hiking that percentage is important for a high-achieving district, Jauch said Nov. 15.
The push to exceed began more than six years ago. The district increased the time students spent learning math and science; it made more use of lab time in all subjects, increased student access to technology and built more time for collegial collaboration into teachers’ schedules.
It also crunched test data, especially raw scores (unweighted or otherwise “scaled” correct answers to questions) that they could analyze to pinpoint which students needed help, and where curriculum was strong. Those and other strategies bore fruit, as testified by the ISAT scores, but Jauch is equally pleased with another accomplishment.
When district statistical consultant Clay Graham looked at raw student test scores in all three subjects, then compared it with the same data from all other Illinois elementary school districts, District 37 was the third highest performing elementary district in the state this year.
Touting either that type of ranking or the “exceeds” percentage by itself can be difficult when many school districts and news outlets — and hence the reading public — focus on the combined “meets or exceeds” benchmark, Jauch said. For instance the combined “meets and exceeds” percentage has gone up slightly over the past six years, and a casual reviewer of state report cards might not even notice the leap in “exceeds” results if they aren’t highlighted.