In Face of Latest District Report Card, Weninger Says New Testing Standards on the Way
By Brandi Makuski
The Stevens Point Public School District ranks above state average, according to the latest state report card. Superintendent Attila Weninger said he’s proud of what the district has achieved, but advises the results should be taken in context because testing methods are about to change- again.
“One snapshot does not indicate the sum total of the excellence of the school district,” Weninger said. “This is one snapshot. The ACT scores are another snapshot. Our graduation rate is another snapshot. What our students do after graduation 1, 3, 5, 10 years out is another snapshot.”
Stevens Point ranked higher than the state average in all categories tested, which include student achievement, student growth, closing gaps and one-track/post secondary readiness. Weninger said despite a recent change in testing benchmarks by the state, and despite the Nation’s Report Card being a relatively new program, testing methods will change in the spring of 2015.
“Our scores dropped from last year to this year, but that’s because there was a more rigorous set of benchmarks applied. You can’t reconcile that; people are going to try to compare it to 20,30 years ago, but times have changed, expectations have changed. I won’t argue the fact that the WKCE wasn’t a good test because you talk to the kids at the high school when they took this test- it’s a blow off,” he said.
The WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations) test is administered at grades 3-8 and again in grade 10. Weninger said while higher benchmarks were applied in 2012-13, different standards yet are right around the corner.
New online testing will replace the paper and pencil WKCE tests, and will be administered to students virtually every year of public school academia until 11th grade, when students will be required to take the ACT. The idea, Weninger said, is to follow each group of students as they move on each year as opposed to testing random groups out of context.
“That (current) model of testing came into being about ten years ago, where we’d take snapshots of 3rd grade or 8th grade or high school year after year but there are a different set of kids every year, different teachers, the curriculum could be different, the instructional practices could be different, and those snapshots don’t tell you anything,” he said. “People were beginning to take ten years of snapshots of different cohorts of kids and your scores might flat line, they might go up or down, but it meant nothing because there were so many changing variables inside the school that when you had a different set of kids, that set of kids is very different from the group behind it. That snapshot is not working.”
Weninger said leaders from federal level decided individual state tests didn’t set a high enough standard for students, and there was confusion over individual state requirements. The new standard for testing, he said, is based on the controversial Common Core standards but will better gauge how far each group of students has improved because the testing will eventually provide a history of each school and grade level.
“You’ll have an entirely new foundation beginning here,” Weninger said. “But for a while, you won’t be able to look back and say we can compared apples to apples,” Weninger said. “It’s a general movement towards a national curriculum. And they’re doing it by way of an exam.”