Deerfield students tested near or above statewide scores in all subjects except math in 2018-19, administrators in the school district say.

At a School Board Committee of the Whole meeting on Oct. 7, district Curriculum Coordinator Jill Fleming shared scores from three state tests: the Forward test taken by third through eighth-grade students, the ACT Aspire test for ninth-and-tenth-graders and the ACT for eleventh-graders.

The results sparked a conversation at the meeting about how to bring math scores up.

Deerfield Elementary School third-through-sixth-grade math scores on the Forward Exam fell in the 2015-16 to 2017-18 school years. They leveled out in 2018-19 but remained below the state average, administrators said.

According to Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction data presented to the School Board, 39 percent of Deerfield third-through-eighth-graders tested proficient or advanced math portion of the Forward Exam in 2018-19. The statewide average of third-through-eighth-graders scoring proficient or advanced was 43 percent.

Deerfield ninth-and-tenth-grade students also tested lower than the 2018-19 state average in math on the ACT Aspire test.

Math scores on the ACT for DHS eleventh-graders were above the state average.

“Math is obviously not where we would like it to be, but if there’s one happy note, we did not do worse. Our scores didn’t go down,” compared to previous years, Fleming told the School Board.

Math instruction came up Monday during a discussion of the district’s goals for the 2019-20 school year.

“We really are trying to figure out all of the math across the district,” Superintendent Michelle Jensen said.

“When we have low math scores, which we all can agree we have, and we have good people here that are teaching it, and that’s not changing, then we’ve got to change something else. And we believe that it comes in the practice of where the curriculum meets the teachers,” Jensen continued.

The school district has been trying to prioritize its math instruction, by adding more minutes and making curriculum consistent.

“We are working diligently to try to figure things out,” Fleming said.

The DPI released last year’s statewide test score data in September.

Students did better on other parts of the tests.

On the English language arts portion of the Forward Exam, Deerfield third-through-eighth-graders scored above state averages. Deerfield fourth-and-eighth-graders that took the Forward Exam science portion tested above statewide percentages, and fourth-eighth-and-tenth-graders taking social studies sections of the Forward Exam exceeded statewide averages. Deerfield saw slight dips in science and social studies scores from previous years.

And on all three portions of the ACT – English language arts, math and science — Deerfield eleventh-graders tested at or above the state average.

Ninth and tenth-grade scores on the ACT Aspire in 2018-19 looked similar to the previous year, Fleming said

“I will say that our tenth-grade this past year, we had probably more kids kind of submit the test without trying than I’ve probably seen, so that was a little disappointing,” Fleming said.

On the ACT in 2018-19, “we looked like rockstars,” Fleming said.

She noted that test scores can fluctuate heavily year-to-year.

“Because we’re the smallest (district) in Dane County, it’s hard for our school, it’s hard to tell how we’re really doing,” Fleming said.

That fluctuation, Fleming said, comes from differences in each class of students; each group of students tests differently. In a small district like Deerfield, smaller changes in test scores have a bigger effect on percentages, she also said.

“It can flip the next year,” Fleming said. “It’s not necessarily our teachers are doing something wrong or our curriculum is bad, it’s the clientele that we have at the time, and how can we best support them?”

“It’s hard to decide where our deficits are because it really does depend,” she concluded.

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