Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Kids Are Alright...

It's that time of year again. WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Exam) results came out this past week. It's what we wait almost 6 months for after the kids take the tests each fall. Honestly, historically, results have not been very least they have not been what one would expect given the glowing, gushing statements coming out of the district and the school board.

For the past 5 years, SP-EYE has been monitoring the WKCE results and evaluating them in an unbiased fashion. Yep, we strip off all the spin-doctoring and vapid praise and get down and dirty with the data. We want to "keep it real" for you. So, we follow up on the annual State Journal comparisons of the 16 area school districts and review how Sun Prairie measures up. We strip off the percentages (which reflect the percentage of students that achieve a score of "Proficient" or "Advanced" for a given exam (the District-wide goal is to have all students at or above 90% at each grade level and subject), and just rank the schools from high to low. Sometimes it's hard to do that just by looking at 16 school districts x 5 exams x 7 grades.

Since only grades 4, 8, and 10 are evaluated on all 5 subject areas (grades 3, 5, 6, and 7 are only evaluated on Reading and Math), we've limited our summaries to those key grades.

Overall, very few grade levels achieved the goal of 90% students at "Proficient" or "Advanced". However, how we measure up across the county and vs. the statewide averages is what really tells the tale. As the school district indicates, it takes a lot of time and effort to review this data in fine detail. So we're giving you the view from 20,000 feet. There have been numerous concerns about how the high school has fared relative to the rest of the county over the last five years. This year, SPHS ranked #3 for the 10th grade exams. That is a remarkable accomplishment. The teachers are the front-line warriors in this battle, with support provided from the puzzle palace at 501 South Bird St. Well done, folks. And great work, students! (But let's not celebrate with a bunch of pizza parties, eh?)

For Further Reading

Wisconsin State Journal article 4/28/09

2009 Dane Co. Reading & Math scores

2009 Dane Co. Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies scores

link to SP-EYE post on 2007-08 WKCE scores

School District Press Release on 2008-09 Results

2009 performance at Grades 10, 8, and 4

5-year historical trends at Grades 10, 8, and 4

So...Sun Prairie, it seems that we are moving onto the right track. Things could be better in the lower grades, but the cake ain't done cooking 'til you take it out of the oven (and even then it continues to cook a bit longer), and if we can sustain this year's performance at Grade 10, we'll be in good shape. For the last three years we were mired in the middle of the 16 Dane County school districts. Five years ago, our scores were at rock bottom. The results for Grade 10 are particularly impressive. Perhaps this will be further reflected down the road in post-graduation and follow-up surveys regarding preparedness for life beyond high school.

Sun Prairie has always been known as a sports town, but perhaps now we're on the path to being renowned for academics as well. That would be nice. We also find that, all in all, the kids really are alright. Life is not without its speed bumps, of course, but our kids do persevere...although we believe that is often IN SPITE of , rather than BECAUSE of the school board.