CUSD No. 7 school report card discussion raises concerns beyond testing numbers

CUSD No. 7 school report card discussion raises

By JACKSON WILSON

Coal Country Times Reporter

On Nov. 25, it was revealed to the Gillespie Board of Eduation that the overall testing scores on the 2019 Community Unit School District No. 7 school report card were relatively on target, with the exception of mathematics.

The report showed that 25 percent of Gillespie students met or exceeded state standards – a decrease compared to the statewide average of 32 percent.

This math proficiency deficit was mostly emphasized in regards to students at the lower school levels.

In 2018, the ‘meet or exceed’ rate stood at 27 percent. Now, it has significantly dropped a few rungs on the ladder.

This year, 20 percent of elementary and middle school students who took the Illinois Assessment for Readiness standardized test met or exceeded state standards.

However, that number was still high enough to rank Gillespie tenth out of 19 area school districts, according to a report from Superintendant Joseph Tieman.

The board was obviously brought to a lengthy discussion on how to improve the statistical data, but a passionate Ben-Gil Elementary School principal Angela Sandretto voiced that the goal of CUSD No. 7 education needs to be more about just the testing numbers when judging the educational values of students.

“We can’t expect kids to go from ‘did not meet’ to ‘meets or exceeds’ overnight,” stated Sandretto. “There are students who ‘approach’ or ‘did not meet’ that work extremely hard on the test. They might still fall into those categories but they made huge strides. What we need to look at is growth. If they are not making progress, that’s a concern, but if they’re working hard and making gains, that is a success. Our job is to take kids from where they are and move them forward.”

“We have school-wide competitions and students are showing a lot of growth in basic math skills,” said Rosentreter. “A school leadership team has been established and a third resource teacher has been hired. The American Research Institute will also have a role in helping the district choose a new math curriculum for both the BenGil Elementary School and Gillespie Middle School. We’re basically changing the entire culture and improving instruction within the department. I’m very confident we’re going to start seeing improvement  this spring.”

Sandretto was in agreement that there were issues rooted in the current basic math facts curriculum, highlighting the expectations of learning numerical tables and putting in extra time outside of the classroom to polish up other facts in that catagory. It was determined by the board that that lack of knowledge was perhaps the ultimate factor in hindering students’ abilities to progress.

“If they’re not doing that, we need to bring it back into the school,” Sandretto said. “We plan to make that change and I’m hoping that over time, the associated leaders are going to see the results of that. It’s a progression. It’s not going to happen in a short period of time.”

Tieman was in agreement that there was plenty of room for growth, but he also brought up that the sub-standard math scores weren’t nearly enough to tarnish the overall level of student progression in the CUSD No. 7 educational system.

“The school’s score for English and language arts exceeded the state average by seven percent and the math score was just two points below,” Tieman mentioned. “For this particualar school in this particular year, that looks pretty good to me. The MAP assessment program we adopted last year should provide us with a clearer picture of student progress. It should be on the board’s agenda for February or March.”

Additionally, Tieman and Sandretto made sure to leave the stone overturned when discussing the difficulties generated by the effects of poverty.

The poverty rate for CUSD No. 7 was calculated at 77 percent, compared with a statewide average of 49 percent.

“Given all the negatives that come with poverty, what our kids, our classroom teachers, our administrators and our community at large have been able to do is really impressive,” said Tieman. “When you consider what we’re asking our teachers to do, we’re asking them to teach, we’re asking them to be social workers, psychologists, and even parents all while teaching at multiple levels. When you consider all that, these numbers just jump off the chart.”

“We have so many of our kids who are living with trauma,” Sandretto said. “That’s why we need to celebrate a student who lives in trauma and ‘did not meet’ but still gained 20 points. That student worked really hard.”

“I think the moral of the story here is that everything on these report cards are skewed,” said CUSD No. 7 school board member Jenni Alepra. “Rather than spend all this time on test scores every year, I would like to know how kids are improving.”

For more information from the Nov. 25 CUSD No. 7 school board meeting, refer to last week’s article.

Visit IllinoisReportCard.com for the full report card data on each of the three Gillespie public schools.