The Sun Prairie Area School District discussed their Student Results 2 (SR2) policies on overall student literacy and numeracy proficiency from the 2021-22 school year with the school board on Monday, Nov. 21.
The board accepted the district’s results that reasonable progress was made with notable exceptions. However, multiple board members were concerned with the lackluster results presented.
Students who are classified as literate based on the SR2 results are students that have the ability to read at grade level expectations. The results from standardized testing show that only approximately 40% of students grades 3-8 are reading at grade level expectations.
“It’s sad for me to see so many people struggling with reading,” Board Deputy Clerk Diana McFarland said. “You look at the state and we are not alone. It’s sad and scary.”
According to the Assistant Superintendent of Teaching, Learning and Equity, Stephanie Leonard-Witte, the school district met reasonable progress for 19 out of 20 measures for student literacy and 10 out of 14 measures for student numeracy.
Leonard-Witte encouraged caution when viewing the results because test scores are down from the pandemic.
“There is caution around data that is still impacted by the global pandemic,” Leonard-Witte said. “We are making reasonable progress with these exceptions noted.”
The Sun Prairie Area School District’s literacy (or reading) results are comparable with the rest of the state, and are slightly better in some measurements. A decline in reading scores has become a nationwide issue following multiple years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Board Treasurer Latoya Holiday shared her passion for literacy and the importance of prioritizing the improvement of reading results.
“It’s hard for me to look at reasonable progress on these measures and see that not even half of our students are reading at a proficient level,” Holiday said. “I don’t think there is any more important work than teaching kids how to read. All school districts need to learn how to do that better.”
The SR2 results showed that only 21% of hispanic students and 13% of Black students in grades 3-8 are reading at their current grade level.
“Our state is the worst at educating Black kids in the country,” Holiday said. “To compare ourselves to the state seems unbalanced. This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night. We need to figure out how to make this right.”
District Superintendent Brad Saron acknowledged that the reports show misalignment to the district’s goals and the administrative team is working hard to create an environment to realign results.
“Report cards are coming out now and kids are struggling at the national level,” Saron said. “We know that standardized testing disproportionately impacts our most vulnerable children, which includes our children living in poverty, our children of color, our students with disabilities as well as our students who don’t speak English as their first language.”
It was the same message for the numeracy (or math) results. Approximately 43% of students grades 3-8 are meeting or exceeding expectations in math at their grade level, while again, just 21% of Hispanic students and 13% of Black students are meeting those same expectations.
Multiple board members have already started working on a committee to improve their SR2 policies and what can be done to improve reading and math scores overall.
“This is all based on standardized testing,” Board Governance Officer Tom Weber said. “There’s a place for standardized testing, but obviously there are so many other things going on that need to be evaluated relative to understand what our successes and failures are. I look forward to the opportunity to improve our district’s results.”
Board President Steve Schroeder acknowledged that the board knows better now than they did seven years ago when they started looking at this data.
“We obviously have work to do,” Schroeder said. “I’m excited to dig into this again. We have an over reliance on standardized testing. It’s not just about being proficient, it’s about the growth that our children make in our district.”
For more information about the Nov. 21, 2022 Sun Prairie School Board meeting, see a related story with this article at sunprairiestar.com.