Though the methods of assessment are currently undergoing an overhaul, one official in the Lansing School District said there are still some lessons to learn from the recently received Building Report Cards.
Though the methods of assessment are currently undergoing an overhaul, one official in the Lansing School District said there are still some lessons to learn from the recently received Building Report Cards. Dan Wessel, the assistant superintendent for the Lansing School District, said the reports from the Kansas Department of Education provide a snapshot that the district uses to guide its instruction. In the past, the district has relied more heavily on the results of the report card because of potential of sanctions for failing to meet benchmarks. In the past two years, things have changed dramatically, he said. “Everyone at the state will say that if you’re really focusing on these test scores, you’re about two and a half years behind,” Wessel said. A waiver granted by the U.S. Department of Education to the state of Kansas means that target scores did not change this year and that the state is now developing the common core standards curriculum, a sort of successor to the No Child Left Behind requirements that require all students test “proficient” or above in math and reading. Still, Wessel said he is required to report on the report cards. And the results can sometimes be confusing, Wessel said, in part because of the way the system was set up. There are data points that appear to contradict each other — for example, the district as a whole fell short of making Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks, but he said the district also netted multiple “Standard of Excellence” recognitions for scores higher than benchmarks. “I remember having questions about ‘what do we do for the large masses of kids?’ and we continue to educate them very well,” he said. “Where we continue to focus there, we also need and continue to focus on our subgroups.” According to Wessel, the district made strides in bringing up scores for certain “sub-groups,” or groupings of 30 or more students from the testing population that meet certain criteria related to ethnicity, disability or socio-economic status. One of those subgroups — those students eligible for free and reduced lunches — did not make adequate yearly progress in math. Other groups missed benchmarks as well, Wessel said, but were granted “Safe Harbor” because they had brought up their scores significantly from the previous year. “We did not make growth in that subgroup,” he said, referring to the subgroup of students eligible for free and reduced lunches. But the schools did make progress on math scores for some of the other subgroups — African-American students increased scores from 71.4 percent proficient last year to 75.6 percent this year, while Hispanic students’ scores jumped from 78.4 percent to 83.2 percent proficient year over year. Wessel said on the individual school level, the high school math teachers deserve kudos for meeting and exceeding benchmarks in the “all students” category. “They made AYP in an area where many, many, many don’t,” he said. At Lansing Elementary School, free and reduced lunch-eligible and students with disabilities’ scores fell in reading. Last year, Wessel said LES fell short of AYP because of math scores. The new report, he said, underscores that intervention strategies like the multi-tiered system of support now implemented at some level in each of the three buildings are working. “I think that we still have a lot of work to do on that,” he said. Wessel said he thinks that even as the state develops that common core standards, the strides and work done on the building and classroom level put the district in a good position. “Instruction will never change,” he said.