Urbana, Champaign Schools Weigh in on State Test Results

October 31, 2011

Spokespersons for the Champaign and Urbana school districts say there's more to learning progress than just one standardized test.

Both Unit Four and District 116 failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress overall in standardized test scores released by the state on Monday. Yankee Ridge in Urbana and Bottenfield in Champaign were the only two elementary schools that managed to make AYP.

An Urbana schools administrator says state standardized test scores are only responsible for a small portion of improvements at his district. With Yankee Ridge Elementary making Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind, 85-percent of students met or exceeded federal standards this year.

Urbana Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Don Owen said by relying on one test, Adequate Yearly progress and federal standards fail to account for student progress over time, or the growth of advanced placement classes in areas like science and social studies.

Owen said he hopes the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind looks at areas like student growth for years, and other areas he feels the federal act doesn't address well.

"Are my kids learning, and are they progressing at an appropriate rate, so when they're out of high school, are they going to be ready for either college or a career?" he said. "I don't think a simple multiple choice test tells much as a parent about my child's ability to do that."

Meanwhile, A spokeswoman for the Champaign School District maintains the focus is more on continued monitoring of students than the scores on one state exam. Bottenfield Elementary made Adequate Yearly progress, while four other grade schools made AYP in math. Unit 4's Lynn Peisker said the focus is on forward progress.

"That's our concern is that students are learning," she said. "The focus is on student learning every day. Not just one week in March. We take that test very seriously. We look at the results very closely. No doubt there will be some adjustments made. But the real focus is on student learning every day of the year."

Peisker noted that the target is moving for AYP as the standards go up. She also said 77 percent met or exceeded federal standards, and the goal by 2014 will be 100 percent.

Peisker said Champaign schools will develop common course standards over the next few years, which focus more on teaching and learning rather than testing and scoring.

Story source: WILL