Despite a slight dip, the DeForest Area School District is still exceeding expectations as a whole, according to the Department of Public Instruction’s 2019 report card.

After scoring 76.1 in 2018, DeForest totaled a 74.6 this year. Superintendent Eric Runez likened the report card to a focused “snapshot” of how a district is doing.

“It’s not the end-all, be-all of how a school is performing,” said Runez.

The report cards were released Tuesday, Nov. 12, by the DPI. School districts that are considered to be exceeding expectations score between 73-82.9. Those that meet expectations range between 63-72.9. Other categories below that are “Meets Few Expectations” and “Fails to Meet Expectations.”

There was plenty of good news for DeForest, as the high school improved to 78.5. The Middle School dropped into the “Meets Expectations” category, with a score of 69.0. That is the only school in the DeForest district that scored out of the “Exceeds Expectation” range.

Last year, two of the district’s school had a rating of “Meets Expectations.” In 2019, Eagle Point Elementary and Yahara Elementary both jumped a level, going from “Meets Expectations” to “Exceeds Expectations.” They scored 73.9 and 76.8, respectively. Windsor Elementary’s score this year was 79.7.

“There’s some good data here,” said Runez, “but it’s not a comprehensive look.”

DPI considers student achievement, growth and how it has closed gaps in achievement for different populations. Lastly, there’s a category called “on track and postsecondary readiness.” This takes into account attendance, graduation rates and scores for third grade English Language Arts and eighth grade math.

DeForest’s score in its entirety would have been higher had DPI decided not to count Yahara Elementary’s “closing gaps” score. Director of Administration Pete Wilson related that Yahara’s score went way up in this area, rising all the way to 98.6.

Runez said DPI considered it an anomaly. In such cases, Runez said DPI doesn’t want to inappropriately penalize or reward a district.

DeForest’s “Exceeding Expectations” score is a good reflection of how the district is doing, said Runez. There were other triumphs. Third grade achievement across the board was significant, according to school officials. Also, this was the first year where growth measures were included at the state level for high schools. It used to be scores were based on 11th grade ACT scores alone. Freshmen and sophomores doing well on the Aspire tests and juniors’ strong performance on the ACT helped boost the high school’s rating.

Wilson said that shows how DeForest has aligned its curriculum across all four secondary grades.

The district’s scores “generally paint a positive picture” for the district, said Runez.

Wilson added, “It does reinforce the work that’s already in place with teacher development, the district’s efforts in literacy, and our equity work for all of our kids.”

The reason for the drop probably had something to do with recent standardized testing results, such as Forward testing.

“Achievement at key grade levels was not where we wanted it to be,” said Wilson.

Abnormalities in at the middle school level on how tests were administered and the scope and sequence of instruction are thought to be contributing factors.

“What’s tricky about the Forward is that it has evolved into something that’s much more rigorous and standards-driven than ever before,” said Wilson.

With regard to professional development of its educators, that is an area the district is focused on. Wilson said that going back to August, the district developed data awareness teams to take a “deep, deep dive” into the data to see how it affects teaching and learning.

The goal is to see what strategies can be embedded into the classroom that can lead to improvement. Wilson talked about a heat map that shows strengths and weaknesses. It’s not so much that DeForest is looking to teach to the test, but rather the district is looking at assessing to the test.

An example is simply getting students used to the format of standardized testing so they know what to expect. Another area is scheduling instruction. Runez and Wilson talked about how a certain area that was tested in May on standardized exams had actually been covered much earlier in the school year. That’s where getting the scope and sequence of instruction right comes in.

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