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WHITEWATER — Recently, the 2019-20 school year began for about 40 Whitewater Unified School District administrators and leadership teams representing each of the district’s five schools during the annual Data Retreat.

“It is during our Data Retreat that district administrators and building teacher-leaders convene to examine district and building-level achievement data along with behavioral and cultural data in order to create goals that will be our road map for the year,” Kelly Seichter, director of instruction, said. “It is from this important work, analyzing a broad range of assessments, we determine our strengths, our needed areas of growth and gaps to be addressed moving forward.

“From this analysis, our schools establish their School Learning Outcomes,” she added. “These goals become the focus of resource allocation, professional development initiatives, and are at the center of targeted support plans for our buildings.”

According to District Administrator Mark Elworthy, “The Data Retreat allows us to reflect and learn from the past. It is a great way to set the course for the school year.”

Seichter began the retreat with an overview of strategic planning in the district and the role of school culture.

She then turned attention to the district and school Accountability Report Cards for the 2017-18 school year. These Accountability Report Cards include data on multiple indicators for multiple years across four priority areas: student achievement, growth, closing gaps, and on-track and post-secondary success.

In addition, the Accountability Report Cards also measure chronic absenteeism and dropout rates.

Next, the most current results of two measurements of student growth and achievement in core areas of learning were reviewed.

The first of these measurements, the Wisconsin Forward Exam, is required by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and is designed to gauge how well students are doing in relation to the Wisconsin Academic Standards. These standards outline what students should know and be able to do in order to be college and career ready.

The Forward Exam is administered online in the spring of each school year at grades 3-8 in English Language Arts and mathematics, at grades 4 and 8 in Science, and at grades 4, 8, and 10 in Social Studies.

Accommodations and supports for students with disabilities and/or English language learners are built into the system so that the progress of students can be measured accurately.

For classroom teachers, the information provided by Measures of Academic Performance (MAP) complements the Wisconsin Forward Test results.

MAP for WUSD students grades 1-8, in math and reading, measures what they know and what they are ready to learn next, whether they are on, above,or below grade level.

MAP is structured as computerized tests where the difficulty of each question is based on how well a student answers previous questions. As the student answers correctly, questions become more difficult. If the student answers incorrectly, the questions become easier.

In an optimal test, a student answers approximately half the items correctly and half incorrectly. The final score is an estimate of the student’s achievement level.

Lenora Heim, director of Special Education and Pupil Services, offered a summary of the most recent ACCESS for ELL (English language learners) data for the school district.

ACCESS is a suite of English language proficiency assessments taken annual by ELL in K-grade 12 in states that are members of WIDA (World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment Consortium), based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The ACCESS assessments measure students’ academic English language in four language areas: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

WUSD teachers use ACCESS results to make decisions about students’ English academic language and to facilitate their language development.

Whitewater High School Principal Mike Lovenberg presented information about the performance of WHS students on two assessments that are required by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

It is important to note that students with significant cognitive disabilities are assessed with an alternate assessment, the Dynamic Learning Maps.

The ACT Aspire Early High School measures what students have learned in English, reading, math, science and writing. In addition, the ACT Aspire scores predict how students will perform on the ACT when they reach 11th grade.

These tests help to identify students who need academic intervention earlier in their high school careers.

The ACT with Writing tests required of 11th grade students include reading, math, English and science. The writing portion of the assessment is a paper and pencil test.

The ACT with Writing helps students understand what they need to learn next so they can build rigorous high school course plans and identify career areas that align with their interests.

Lovenberg also shared information and trends regarding the performance of Whitewater High School students on AP (Advanced Placement) tests following their completion of AP courses at WHS.

Last year, 73 WHS students who completed AP courses took 110 AP tests. Forty-three of these students scored 3 or higher on their AP tests, making them eligible for being awarded college/university credit for successful completion of their AP courses.

In the case of UW-Whitewater, completion of an AP test with a score of 3 or higher results in a savings of more than $950 in tuition for a three-credit course.

Each of the principals led a discussion of school goals set for the 2018-19 school year.

Following a review of these various sources of information about achievement, academic growth and the English language proficiency of ELL students, leadership teams began the process of creating two to three goals for 2019-20 that Seichter characterized as “data driven SMART goals aligned with the district’s vision, mission and action plans.

In formulating SMART goals, the objective is to create goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

“It’s a significant amount of work for our leadership teams to dig deep into this data and craft these goals,” Seichter noted, “but the endeavor is well worth the effort put into it.”

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