Letters to the Editor

Guest viewpoint: East St. Louis demonstrates progress on nationally normed test

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam was first administered to Illinois students in 2014-15. The composite passing score for East St. Louis was 3 percent, as compared to the state average of 29 percent. This is not acceptable. We all know that our students, as well as those across the state, can achieve at higher levels. We have made, and will continue to make, systemic improvements that guarantee increased student achievement.

PARCC scores, while very disappointing, are not the sole measure of academic success. We use multiple, high quality assessments to measure student progress and to inform curriculum and instruction. In order to increase awareness of successful initiatives that have taken place in District 189 over the past four and a half years, we are sharing a five part series highlighting improvements in the areas of academic achievement, financial stability, safe learning and working environments, improving public trust, and hiring and retaining high quality staff. We will begin with the most important part of our mission, academic achievement.

A cornerstone of our curriculum planning and an important measure of achievement are the Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) tests, which are nationally normed assessments for measuring student growth in reading and mathematics. NWEA provides expected growth norms that allow one to compare a student’s observed growth relative to a nationally representative comparison group. The norms provide a context for knowing how much growth is typical or atypical for students over a school year or between varying intervals within a school year. NWEA MAP tests show a 14.1 percent average increase in math and a 14.2 percent increase in reading scores for all grade levels since the 2012-13 school year. Our NWEA scores are not at the high levels to which we aspire, but the consistent improvements at each grade level show that our hard work and changes in curriculum and instruction are resulting in upward achievement trends.

Cohort (the same students tracked from year to year) data are utilized to measure students’ progress on NWEA MAP tests from one year to the next. Cohort improvements for every grade level have shown an average increase of 15.3% in math and a 17.8% increase in reading. District 189 students showed academic growth at all tested grade levels (3rd-10th) on the 2015-16 Fall to Winter MAP exams. The ninth grade students, who met or exceeded their expected growth targets, increased by 12% in math and 20% in reading. Grades 6-10 had the greatest NWEA growth on the Winter assessment in 4 years. Continuing this achievement growth will result in improved PARCC scores, as well as scores on other standardized tests.

None of this significant progress would have occurred without commitment, hard work, and change, over the past few years. We would like to attain instant success; however, success requires systemic change, which is a process not an event. We have laid a foundation for success that will yield great improvements in the near future.