Education

These area schools improved state testing scores over time. Here’s how they did it.

Schools across Illinois are digging into the trends in students’ test scores from the last three years to see if what they’re doing is working.

Most in the metro-east have seen improvements over time.

For some schools, there were increases of 20 percent or more students meeting the state’s standards for what they should know compared to the first year they gave students the PARCC assessment.

It tests students’ skills in math and English language arts. The state decides that scores at a certain level in each subject mean children are prepared for the next grade level and what comes after high school for them — college or a career.

Statewide, only about 34 percent of students are scoring at that level. Half the schools in St. Clair, Madison, Monroe and Clinton counties were at or above that average performance level this year.

Assessments can show parents and teachers a snapshot of students’ knowledge. It’s one of the ways that schools measure students’ progress.

PARCC is a more challenging assessment by design.

It asks students to support their answers with information from something they read and show how they solved problems.

110117Dh parcc work
Examples of New Athens third-graders’ PARCC practice work is on display in the school hallway. Derik Holtmann dholtmann@bnd.com

During the last three years, the most improved school in the four-county area was New Athens Elementary. It didn’t have the highest-scoring students in 2017, but almost 30 percent more New Athens students met the state’s standards.

The other Southern Illinois schools with the biggest improvements included:

▪  Alhambra Primary in Highland Unit 5, with 26 percent more proficient students.

▪  New Baden Elementary in Wesclin Unit 3, with 22 percent more proficient students.

▪  St. Jacob Elementary in Triad Unit 2, with 21 percent more proficient students.

▪  New Athens Junior High in New Athens Unit 60, with 21 percent more proficient students.

▪  Franklin Elementary in Belleville District 118, with 19 percent more proficient students.

These schools with the biggest gains say, in general, what helped them were their teachers’ approach to the new challenges of PARCC and giving students time to practice.

What works

Principal Jim Marlow said teachers in New Athens try to give students opportunities to practice for PARCC as often as they can.

They’ve increased the time they devote to math and English language arts each day. They ask students to support their answers with evidence and explain their reasoning during regular instruction, which is also what they’ll be asked to do when they take the PARCC test.

Third-grade students, in particular, are doing better over time, according to Marlow. That’s because, like other students at schools that have updated their curriculum in recent years, they’ve been exposed to the math and English material on PARCC since kindergarten.

New Athens Unit 60 is starting to incorporate technology at kindergarten, too, in an effort to help students prepare for PARCC’s online format.

St. Jacob Elementary has Chromebook laptops for students in second through fifth grades to use, thanks to its parent-teacher organization, Principal Jay Simpson said.

Principal Cindy Tolbert said keyboarding is a part of students’ instruction on a daily basis at Alhambra Primary.

For the students who need extra help, New Baden Elementary offers after-school study halls and provides transportation to get them home, according to Superintendent Jennifer Filyaw.

Principal Jon Boente said the Franklin Neighborhood Community Association in Belleville provides tutoring after school to more than 20 percent of the students at Franklin Elementary.

110117Dh math
New Athens Elementary school third grade math teacher Sarah Duensing works with students on multiplication. Over three years of PARCC testing, New Athens Elementary is one of the most improved schools. Derik Holtmann dholtmann@bnd.com

Every year, educators analyze the data they get about their students so they know what work still needs to be done.

Marlow said staff at New Athens Elementary, like many schools, try to answer several questions when they get results from the state: Who did well? Who didn’t? How do their scores for this year compare to how they did last year?

Teachers use the information to target the areas where individual students need to improve. “You don’t just open the book to chapter one without knowing your kids and knowing where they came from,” Marlow said.

Educators at different grade levels need to talk to each other for that to happen. A third-grade teacher’s students, for example, have already moved to a fourth-grade classroom with a new teacher when they see the results of the assessment.

That’s the nature of the type of assessment that PARCC is. It’s summative, which means it evaluates students’ knowledge once near the end of the school year.

With another type of assessment, formative, students would take a test multiple times during the school year, giving teachers feedback while they’re still teaching those students.

State Superintendent Tony Smith said, in the future, the goal is for educators in Illinois to get the results from PARCC earlier. The state would like to administer the test multiple times during the school year, he said, but there aren’t enough vetted test questions to do that yet.

There’s a review process built in to the test’s design. According to PARCC, educators at a variety of levels, including college faculty, have a say in whether test questions are accurate, unbiased and appropriate for the grade level before they’re incorporated.

Critiques of the test

Jim Rosborg, a retired Belleville District 118 superintendent, notes that students’ performance on the single state assessment they take every year can be influenced by the pressure they feel to do well.

“Many of these children, they panic on tests,” he said.

Boente said staff at Franklin Elementary step in when students struggle and want to give up.

“Every adult in the building makes it a point to form connections with the kids,” Boente said. “Yes, curriculum is important, but until you form a relationship with the student, they will not succeed.”

St. Jacob Elementary staff also try to create an encouraging environment for students, according to Simpson.

“The climate at St. Jacob Elementary is very positive, and that starts with the staff — all staff, not just teachers — and trickles down to the students,” Simpson said.

The goal with the switch to PARCC was to stop asking students to memorize facts and fill in test bubbles at the end of the school year. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers was created to start asking students to think critically.

It was part of a “new generation of tests” that rolled out in 11 states including Illinois by 2015.

Some educators have questioned whether the higher standards of PARCC are achievable for most students if about 34 percent of students statewide meet them on average.

Rosborg currently works at McKendree University as the director of the master’s in education program. If he would have seen the same percentages of passing students as a teacher, Rosborg said “I would have looked at my own test.”

Principal Marlow said he thinks students’ scores would improve if they could return to a paper and pencil format for the assessment.

Students in eighth-grade down to 8-year-olds have to take the test electronically if their school has the means. They’re asked to type, highlight text and scroll on a screen, which can be difficult for students who haven’t had practice, according to Marlow.

Another challenge for young students is staying focused for at least an hour, sometimes longer, to complete the test’s sections. That’s after PARCC already cut down the amount of time it takes to complete the test based on feedback after the first year of testing.

110117DH english
New Athens third grade English language arts teacher Elena Macia works on Venn diagrams with students. Over three years of PARCC testing, New Athens Elementary is one of the most improved schools. Derik Holtmann dholtmann@bnd.com

Shiloh District 85 Superintendent Dale Sauer said the transition from a two-part paper test in 2015 to one online test in 2017 contributed to the decline in student performance at Shiloh Elementary School. Almost 18 percent fewer students there met the state’s standards this year.

The school had been among the top five scoring schools in 2015. Sauer said that was “a particularly high scoring cohort group.”

The elementary school has just two grade levels, which Sauer said is a small sample size that can be affected by small shifts in enrollment and performance.

But he said it’s too early to say whether other factors, like the reduction of support staff or students who moved out of the district, contributed to the decrease. The district plans to continue analyzing the data over the next few months.

“We do not place the entire value of education on a single-point-in-time assessment,” he said. “Shiloh schools have always been very proud of the education that our students receive and more proud of the people they become.”

While educators have complaints about PARCC, there’s also concern that the state will change the assessment after schools have invested time and resources in new curriculum and as students are getting familiar with the format.

The number of states using PARCC in 2017 decreased to seven. Though Illinois still uses PARCC for students in third through eighth grades, it stopped using the assessment for its high school students in spring 2017.

Illinois’ vendor contract for the assessment is coming to an end, but State Superintendent Smith said officials have no intention of stopping PARCC.

“We’re all in with PARCC,” Smith said.

Reporter Elizabeth Donald contributed to this report.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes

Percentage of students who met standards

According to the state’s standards for the assessment of students in third through eighth grades, the PARCC, the following are the percentage of students who are considered ready for the next level:

City

School

2017

2016

2015

Albers

Albers Elementary School

61.2

62

59

Alhambra

Alhambra Primary School

61.9

36

36

Alton

West Elementary School

26.5

23

21

Alton

East Elementary School

18

17

18

Alton

Alton Middle School

19.5

24

24

Aviston

Aviston Elementary School

69.9

68

54

Bartelso

Bartelso Elementary School

78

69

69

Beckemeyer

Beckemeyer Elementary School

58.4

60

40

Belleville

Franklin Elementary School

36.4

22

17

Belleville

Jefferson Elementary School

28.6

28

19

Belleville

Henry Raab Elementary School

37

32

29

Belleville

Abraham Lincoln Elementary School

28.7

27

21

Belleville

Douglas Elementary School

23.6

17

17

Belleville

West Junior High School

30.4

27

25

Belleville

Belle Valley School

29.3

30

24

Belleville

Central Junior High School

37.1

35

33

Belleville

Emge Junior High School

19.6

16

17

Belleville

Roosevelt Elementary School

37.4

42

35

Belleville

Westhaven Elementary School

29.1

31

27

Belleville

Union Elementary School

34.2

35

34

Belleville

Harmony Intermediate Center

25.7

26

n/a

Belleville

Ellis Elementary School

25.3

26

27

Belleville

Whiteside Middle School

33.1

31

35

Belleville

Signal Hill Elementary School

33.9

40

40

Belleville

Whiteside Elementary School

25.9

28

32

Bethalto

Parkside Primary School

33.9

38

20

Bethalto

Wilbur Trimpe Middle School

31.9

23

23

Breese

Breese Elementary School

51.4

46

46

Breese

St. Rose Elementary School

64

58

60

Brooklyn

Lovejoy Elementary School

1.6

1

0

Brooklyn

Lovejoy Middle School

5

6

5

Cahokia

Elizabeth Morris Elementary School

9.5

n/a

n/a

Cahokia

Huffman Elementary School

3.2

0

1

Cahokia

8th Grade Academy

5.6

5

5

Cahokia

7th Grade Academy

6.1

0

6

Cahokia

Oliver Parks 6th Grade School

3.3

0

5

Cahokia

Estelle Sauget School of Choice

12.2

11

14

Cahokia

Penniman Elementary School

2.5

0

5

Carlyle

Carlyle Junior High School

29.1

27

25

Carlyle

Carlyle Elementary School

52.4

51

51

Caseyville

Caseyville Elementary School

18.2

16

13

Centralia

Willow Grove Elementary School

35.3

35

30

Centralia

North Wamac Grade School

14.6

17

27

Centreville

Lalumier Elementary School

7.7

n/a

n/a

Collinsville

Kreitner Elementary School

20

13

13

Collinsville

John A Renfro Elementary School

25.3

21

20

Collinsville

Summit Elementary School

38.3

32

34

Collinsville

Webster Elementary School

20.8

17

18

Collinsville

Jefferson Elementary School

38

31

37

Collinsville

Collinsville Middle School

20.5

21

24

Collinsville

Twin Echo Elementary School

26.1

36

34

Collinsville

Dorris Intermediate School

20.9

34

33

Columbia

Parkview Elementary School

66.8

63

55

Columbia

Columbia Middle School

52.3

49

51

Damiansville

Damiansville Elementary School

67.2

73

69

Dupo

Bluffview Elementary School

31

35

25

Dupo

Dupo Junior High School

32.5

35

27

East Alton

East Alton Middle School

25.4

14

28

East Alton

Eastwood Elementary School

22

22

25

East St. Louis

Katie Harper-Wright Elementary School

9

7

3

East St. Louis

Gordon Bush Elementary School

9.7

3

4

East St. Louis

Lincoln Middle School

5.6

0

0

East St. Louis

Dunbar Elementary School

6.5

0

3

East St. Louis

Mason/Clark Middle School

4.2

3

3

East St. Louis

Annette Officer Elementary School

5.5

5

5

Edwardsville

Columbus Elementary School

65

60

60

Edwardsville

Woodland Elementary School

58

58

59

Edwardsville

Lincoln Middle School

46.8

44

52

Edwardsville

Liberty Middle School

46.4

49

57

Fairview Heights

Pontiac Junior High School

47.5

42

31

Fairview Heights

William Holliday Elementary School

36.6

38

32

Fairview Heights

Grant Middle School

27.4

25

23

Fairview Heights

Illini Elementary School

23.1

21

23

Freeburg

Freeburg Elementary School

54.3

49

43

Germantown

Germantown Elementary School

70.9

61

52

Glen Carbon

Albert Cassens Elementary School

57.4

61

57

Godfrey

North Elementary School

21.2

26

24

Granite City

Mitchell Elementary School

20.8

11

11

Granite City

Frohardt Elementary School

24

19

20

Granite City

Coolidge Junior High School

11.9

13

20

Granite City

Grigsby Intermediate School

10.5

9

19

Hartford

Hartford Elementary School

21.1

15

12

Highland

Grantfork Upper Elementary School

40.8

21

38

Highland

Highland Elementary School

40.8

38

40

Highland

Highland Middle School

48.1

58

49

Lebanon

Lebanon High School

24.4

25

26

Lebanon

Lebanon Elem School

23.9

28

27

Madison

Bernard Long Elementary School

7.3

5

0

Madison

Madison Junior High School

4.2

0

5

Marine

Marine Elementary School

46.6

51

42

Marissa

Marissa Elementary School

26.2

17

17

Marissa

Marissa Junior and Senior High School

17.2

18

29

Maryville

Maryville Elementary School

55.9

52

47

Mascoutah

Mascoutah Middle School

52.7

50

48

Mascoutah

Mascoutah Elementary School

49.1

45

52

Millstadt

Millstadt Consolidated School

51.5

49

51

Moro

Meadowbrook Intermediate School

29.4

24

22

New Athens

New Athens Elementary School

51.8

40

22

New Athens

New Athens Junior High School

37.5

39

17

New Baden

New Baden Elementary School

56.7

43

35

O’Fallon

Central Elementary School

38.7

20

23

O’Fallon

Laverna Evans Elementary School

47

51

40

O’Fallon

Delores Moye Elementary School

49.9

51

45

O’Fallon

J Emmett Hinchcliffe Sr Elementary School

58.7

60

55

O’Fallon

Marie Schaefer Elementary School

46.7

46

44

O’Fallon

Estelle Kampmeyer Elementary School

49.4

46

48

O’Fallon

Amelia V Carriel Junior High School

41.6

46

43

O’Fallon

Joseph Arthur Middle School

16.8

19

19

O’Fallon

Fulton Junior High School

45

48

50

Roxana

Central Intermediate School

28.3

33

25

Roxana

Roxana Junior High School

21.8

23

23

Scott Air Force Base

Scott Elementary School

52.9

44

55

Shiloh

Shiloh Middle School

49.5

53

49

Shiloh

Wingate Elementary School

50

56

n/a

Shiloh

Shiloh Elementary School

48.5

57

66

Smithton

Smithton Elementary School

62.2

54

45

St. Jacob

St. Jacob Elementary School

61.9

49

41

St. Jacob

Triad Middle School

36.6

31

23

St. Jacob

St. Libory Elementary School

42.5

42

45

Swansea

Wolf Branch Elementary School

51.9

52

41

Swansea

High Mount Elementary School

33.6

35

27

Swansea

Wolf Branch Middle School

48.4

47

47

Trenton

Trenton Elementary School

50

44

42

Trenton

Wesclin Middle School

30.9

34

40

Troy

Silver Creek Elementary School

40.2

33

30

Troy

C A Henning School

40.5

35

34

Valmeyer

Valmeyer Junior High School

40.4

36

43

Valmeyer

Valmeyer Elementary School

30.6

34

36

Venice

Venice Elementary School

16.9

11

8

Washington Park

James Avant Elementary School

11

7

3

Waterloo

Rogers Elementary School

70.8

67

61

Waterloo

Waterloo Junior High School

58

52

54

Waterloo

Gardner Elementary School

58.4

56

55

Wood River

Lewis-Clark Elementary School

27.1

14

16

Wood River

Lewis-Clark Junior High School

16.7

11

13

Worden

Worden Elementary School

51.1

48

44

Illinois

34

34

33

Note: Students in third grade through high school took the PARCC assessment in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, students in third through eighth grade continued taking PARCC, but high school students started taking the SAT as their state assessment.

Related stories from Belleville News-Democrat

  Comments