Test results down in District 7


EDWARDSVILLE – When the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released its spring 2021 school and district level assessment data from the SAT and the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR), the test results were down statewide.

As the ISBE first reported in October, 16.6% fewer students achieved English grade standards in 2021 than in 2019 and 17.8% fewer students achieved meets educational standards in mathematics.

For Rob Werden, regional director of Madison County schools, the results were disappointing but hardly surprising.

“Everyone expected the scores to be going down, and for school districts that were actually up, that was good news,” Werden said. “Every time you look at all the data generated from these test results, you can take a direction and learn something from them.”

ISBE data for Edwardsville School District 7 is typical for many school districts in the state.

For English Language Arts (ELA), for example, the IAR performance levels for spring 2021 showed that 3% of students exceeded standards, with 33% achieved, 34% approached, 20% partially achieved, and 11% not achieved.

For comparison, the 2019 ELA performance levels showed that 10% of students exceeded standards, with 44% achieved, 26% approached, 14% partially achieved, and 6% not achieved.

District 7 data for math showed a similar decline, at least in the “proficient” category (met or exceeded expectations).

The IAR performance levels for spring 2021 showed that 4% of students exceeded standards, 35% met, 31% approached, 21% partially met, and 9% did not.

In 2019, at the same time, IAR math performance levels showed that 7% of students exceeded standards, 45% met, 29% approached, 15% partially met and 5% did not meet. not.

“The IAR scores are one of the primary goals, and we also look at high school test scores, graduation rates and attendance rates,” District 7 Superintendent Patrick Shelton said. “I can’t speak much about the graduation rate at this point, but everything else is down. “

Shelton noted that challenges remain for teachers and students, even as District 7 is returning to full-time in-person learning.

“It’s been 20 months since kids have had a regular school day, and during that time we’ve seen a change in the way we serve kids,” said Shelton, who took over the job. July 1, 2021, replacing Jason Henderson.

“When we first got into distance learning, while Dr. Henderson was still around, it was the first time we had done anything with technology and distance learning.

“It was so new back then, but now, especially in our high schools and high schools, it has become second nature and a lot of our teachers are using it. If students are excluded (from being in the classroom) due to COVID, I think we’re doing a much better job of meeting their needs. “

Worden, meanwhile, was asked if he would have made any adjustments to the county’s e-learning policy for the 2020-21 school year, given what he now knows.

“I think all educators would answer this question with a resounding ‘yes’. The situation we were all thrown into was something neither of us had experienced before. Looking through that lens I think we’ve all learned something from it, ”Worden said.

“The most important thing to remember is that face-to-face learning is the best way to educate our students right now. But those scores would have been even lower if we hadn’t had the remote control option. Ten years ago, before we had devices in the hands of children and all the internet capabilities that we have now, we should have done everything with paper and pencil, and now we can use Zoom and put the kids in. connection with their teacher and their class.

While Worden has acknowledged that the switch to virtual education has caused a decline in student learning, he doesn’t expect it to be permanent.

“I don’t think it’s a total loss – I think more of a postponement,” Worden said. “Knowledge has not been lost, and we will catch up with it. When we experienced what we experienced as a society and especially as educators, it was extremely difficult, and we learned as we went.

“Some students loved the online learning, some didn’t, but it was also a transition for teachers. I was not in the classroom, but I know it would have been a technological challenge for me. I used to help my kids at home and sometimes had to get their help to set up a Zoom call. It forced everyone to become more tech savvy, which is another good thing that came out of it. “

With most schools back to in-person learning, Werden said he expects standardized test scores to increase for the 2021-2022 school year, although they may not reach. not be the levels of 2019.

“The kids are catching up, but they still have social and emotional issues,” Worden said. “There are second-graders who only spent a limited time in a school, and if you compare their scores to those of children who have had a full school experience, they may not add up. It may take them another year or so to catch up. “

While Shelton hopes test scores will increase for the 2021-22 school year, he also believes it may take some time for results to reach pre-pandemic levels.

“Anecdotally, some grade levels have more difficulty than others, and it appears to be those transitional grades,” Shelton said. “Kindergarten and first grade students didn’t have that solid foundation in the classroom, but our third, sixth and ninth graders have all been to school in the past 20 months as well. I think that adds to the struggle.

Shelton, likewise, still notices the lingering effects of the shift to virtual learning, as well as other changes related to the pandemic.

“We see a lot of social, emotional and mental health issues and there are a lot of factors,” Shelton said. “For some children, their parents may be out of work or their parents may be at work all day and the children are left at home.

“In District 7, we did a number of things to try to deal with this. We’ve extended our FastBridge test, which is a reading and math assessment that gives us insight and student progress. We did this last spring as the first district-wide implementation and this year all students are participating.

Additionally, the District 7 School Board recently adopted Panorama, which will launch in January.

“It’s a program where students do a self-assessment of their social, emotional, and mental health to measure connectivity,” Shelton said. “The panorama also comes in many interventions that we can put in place when the pupils do not feel connected or when they feel that nobody cares about them. “

With the pandemic still not over, Worden continues to be concerned about how it will affect the performance of students in District 7.

“I can use the term ‘pre-COVID’ because it’s established, but ‘post-COVID’ is not a thing yet,” Worden said. “I hope we get there quickly and that we have vaccines that can prevent this disease from further ravaging our society.”

Of immediate concern to District 7 and other school districts in Madison County is the recent increase in new cases of COVID among students.

“We’re still navigating COVID positives and school exclusions and we’re at a higher rate now than we’ve been since the start of the school year,” Shelton said. “If you look at the Madison County numbers, we sort of reflect them in District 7.

“Right now we’re just trying to get to December 17th (when Christmas vacation begins). Our teachers need time off because they are learning in person and at a distance, and as the numbers (COVID) increase, it increases the workload for teachers.

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