Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, May 8, 2000

LP board discusses test score results

By Jane Otto

With pending program cuts looming over the Lester Prairie School District, low Basic Standard Test scores announced recently was just another slap in the face.

Lester Prairie had only 50 percent pass the math portion and 64 percent pass the reading. Both scores are well below the state average of 71 percent passing for math and 80 percent passing for reading. The scores were also below those of area schools.

"I was really appalled by those test scores," said a parent, MerriLea Kyllo at Tuesday's school board meeting. "How are we going to continue to open enroll 20 percent with test scores at the bottom?" she asked.

Dean of Students Joe Miller said that they were expecting lower scores than last year, but not quite that low.

On an individual-by-individual basis, he said he could probably say why a student didn't pass, with maybe a few surprises.

If six kids had just one more answer right, that would put the class at 72 percent passing, and we probably wouldn't be here discussing this, Miller said.

Though the class does not have a high percentage of special education students, some were repeating seventh grade math and all eighth grade students are required to take the same test, said Miller.

"When does the slide start?" asked Dick Kiekhaefer, a parent. "Maybe we need to catch these students earlier?"

Presently, the school looks at how a student performs in seventh grade and then tracks that student towards either algebra or eighth grade math. Miller said the school may now look at sixth grade test scores, such as Iowa Basics, and then track students coming into seventh rather than eighth grade.

Cathy Nelson-Messer, a parent, asked if a comparison between how students did in the fifth grade tests to how they do in the eighth grade tests is done.

"I began to do just that," said Miller.

He plans to also look at those students who didn't pass Basic Standards and see how they did on the Iowa Basics.

"Self-comparison is more reliable than a state comparison," said Miller.

By reviewing different test scores, the school can see what areas and what students need improvement

Miller said an option the school will consider is grouping students according to their abilities.

The drawback to ability grouping is that if 20 kids need basic math skills, then those same kids will most likely be in the same science class or language arts class even though they might excel in those areas, Miller added.

Board member Nancy Krull and several parents alluded to rumors they heard that some eighth graders viewed the test as a joke.

"I would bet my paycheck that every school has its number of students who do just that. That's just an excuse for poor performance," said Kyllo.

The outcomes are embarrassing, said Kiekhaefer, and most who care are embarrassed by these scores.

Krull, who asked how many eighth grade parents were present, said that she was struggling more with the fact that 28 of 56 students didn't pass and only three eighth grade parents are here.

It was asked if students should be held accountable for not passing the Basic Standards, possibly by not allowing participation in extra-curricular activities.

Miller said at one time, there was a bill in the Legislature that proposed not allowing a student to get a driver's license unless he successfully completed driver's education course and passed the Basic Standards test.

The general consensus in the room was that that could be a tremendous motivator for kids to pass those state tests..

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