IVC principal talks scores, future tests

Marianne Gillespie
mgillespie@timestoday.com

It was Illinois Valley Central High School Principal Kenton Bergman's turn to talk about test scores with the IVC District 321 school board Oct. 8 in the high school library.

He began by explaining the different tests students are taking throughout their high school careers, with the most critical test of the Prairie State Achievement Exam/ACT, which is given to all juniors in the spring.

"This year, the spring of 2014, from what we've heard from the state, will be the last time that we give the ACT as a requirement for all students," Bergman said.

He broke down the scores so the board members could see the figures based upon two days of testing. The first day is the ACT test, which showed some improvement in English in the previous two years of a score of 20.4 to 21.1 in 2012, but 2013's data was unavailable yet. Math and science both showed some growth with math at 21.7 in 2013 and 21.7 in science. Reading, however, showed the same score of 21.2 for 2011 and 2013 but hit a higher point in 2012 with 21.8.

The second day is the WorkKeys — PSAE, which showed improvement in math from last year to this year but slight drops in reading and science.

The school's goal is to have 70 percent of students meet or exceed. In reading, 60.4 students met or exceeded the goal, which equaled to 90 students of the 149 who took the test. Eighteen students were within five points of hitting that mark, which would have put the percentage at 72.5 to meet or exceed expectations.

In math, the numbers were a little better in that 92 students met or exceeded for 61.7 percent, and with 14 students getting four more points, the goal would have been met at 71.1 percent. Science was the same number of students and percentage who met or exceeded. Four additional points for 15 students would have had them hit the 71.8 percent mark.

Bergman noted that the numbers he was using look different than what is used to determine Adequate Yearly Progress as the scores from both days are averaged together.

"At the high school and I believe this will be for many, many years to come: we've stressed and I believe the vast majority of our staff agree, that you look at three main areas and the results will come," Bergman said.

Those three areas include student engagement and instruction, standards-alignment curriculum and assessment.

"Our overall goal is going to remain at 70 percent, regardless that we're at 8 or 9 percent away from that right now. That doesn't matter, we need to be there. That's where we should be as a school," Bergman said.

There are four main goals for this year, which include student engagement, teaching practices linked to Common Core Learning Standard, student self-assessment and providing textual support and evidence to defend a position.

Bergman said he was especially excited about the student self-assessment portion, which he said is very important to those in performing arts and arts areas. Teachers of those areas will be helping other teachers in that endeavor.

"We need to also be mindful of teaching the students how do you self assess. How do you look at your own work and assess and help yourself out?" Bergman asked.

For the future, Bergman tried to find as much information as he could about testing for 2014-15 and beyond. The tests will be aligned with Common Core, and the assessed areas are English language arts/literacy, which also includes social science and science and math. The computer-based assessments will be for freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

The first test will be a performance-based component when 75 percent of the school year is finished, or around the end of the third quarter. Around the beginning of May will be the final testing when 90 percent of the school is completed for the end-of-year component.

"It's a lot to take in. You compare this type of assessment system when they bring in performance based as well as an end of year component. You compare that to every student taking the ACT. If you look at just that, this is probably a positive move here. The ACT isn't developed for every student to take, but we'll see how this comes out," Bergman said.

The test will be the same as what students will take across 23 states.

Last year, Bergman said the growth model test was on the table, which he was excited about, but now that is not an option.

High school officials also are giving a pilot reading course for a semester to students who want to take it. In math, all freshmen are taking Algebra I now. A math lab, which is another class period, is a supplement of the Algebra I class, which assists them in not only working on homework but also a preview of upcoming concepts.

Board member Steve Garrison asked if there are sample questions for the future tests. Bergman said there are a few, but more are for the younger grades. Bergman said one of the biggest changes, say in math, is that not only do the students have to get the right answer, but be able to defend that answer.

Board member Donna Uebler asked if there was any student accountability as some states do not allow students to graduate unless they pass the tests. With the ACT as the test, Superintendent Chad Allison said Illinois officials have not done something like that, although other states, such as Ohio, have.

Allison also said the district will have a sneak peek at the testing as each school in the district was selected to take a pilot test, which will be for one grade level.

"This is a big change," Allison said, adding that the intent behind the change is that in college, students cannot read a text and then process the information to apply what they know to come up with an answer. Even math has added story problems which require reading.