Data: EC students' reading, math progress on track to decrease

Sarah Seifert, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.
·4 min read

May 4—EAU CLAIRE — An interim assessment that measured Eau Claire third, fourth and fifth grade students' progress in reading and math between fall and winter 2020 found that more students are predicted to make less than a full year's worth of progress.

The Eau Claire school board discussed an interim report on some grades' reading and math progress at its Monday evening meeting.

The number of Eau Claire third, fourth and fifth grade students who made "low" progress in reading between fall and winter increased slightly compared to last fall, and the number of students who made "high" progress decreased.

In math, the same difference showed up for all three grades. For example, in third grade, 46% of students made "low" progress between fall and winter 2020, compared to 27% of students the year before, according to district figures.

School administrators cautioned that these data are incomplete. This particular assessment is usually administered three times per year; these are the results from the fall and winter assessments.

"Once the school year is over we will have many more data sets to review ... these first data are limited," said Jim Schmitt, the district's executive director of teaching and learning.

In the assessment, students were graded as either "low," "typical" or "high" growth, compared to their academic peers nationwide. A student with "typical" growth is on track to reach an expected level of growth over the course of one school year.

The results of the interim assessment also painted a picture of the district's achievement gap.

In all those grades except in second grade, a higher percentage of white students are on track to make a year or more of progress in reading, compared to non-white students, said the district's director of assessment Michelle Radtke.

In all grades, students who had limited proficiency in English and students who are economically disadvantaged were less likely to be on track to make a year or more of growth in reading during this school year.

The achievement gap between students of color and white students exists statewide.

In 2019, Wisconsin had the widest achievement gap between Black and white students of any state in the country, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test conducted once every two years on fourth and eighth grade students.

Overall, about 65% of Eau Claire students in first, third, fourth and fifth grades are on track to make a year or more of growth in reading during this school year, in addition to 86% of second grade students, according to the school district.

Two school board members, Marquell Johnson and Erica Zerr, requested more information about the district's benchmarks and strategies for closing the gaps.

"Of course this is an extraordinary year and I don't think this was unexpected for anyone ... but what are our goals and expectations then, because we've moved in a direction we don't want to be going?" said school board President Tim Nordin.

Teachers use these data to figure out how to improve kids' progress during the school year, said Colleen Miner, Lakeshore Elementary School principal.

"We do the screeners in the fall, winter and spring, and it's imperative we give teachers then time to look at that data," Miner said.

Teachers also collaborate to review this student data and discuss instruction techniques, school officials said.

Few changes in board leadership this year

During the school board's Monday meeting, it reorganized and elected officers, with little change in leadership for the coming year.

Tim Nordin was reelected to a second year as board president; Lori Bica was reelected vice president, slated for her third year in the position.

Marquell Johnson will serve as the board's clerk and governance officer, replacing Joshua Clements. Aaron Harder was reelected as board treasurer.

No new school board members were seated Monday, since all three incumbents — Johnson, Erica Zerr and Clements — defeated a challenger to keep their seats in April.

In other school district news:

* The board approved a $125,000 summer roofing project for Locust Lane Elementary School.

* Ashley Hensley, a behavior interventionist at Sherman Elementary School, will become assistant principal at North High School in August.

* The board approved its work calendar for the 2021-22 school year, which lays out when the board will review school district policies and monitoring reports. For example, according to the calendar, the board will review the school district's environmental policies in early October, student discipline policies in November and budget and financial planning policies in January.