Interesting discoveries are being made by District 91 administrators after evaluating a new assessment tool mid-year. One of them is that some bright kids are ready for more challenging mathematics, and 3rd through 5th grade teachers feel a bit unprepared, according to principals who spoke to the D91 school board meeting on March 3.
“What we’re hearing is that we need more professional development,” said Superintendent Lou Cavallo. “Elementary school teachers are not as comfortable teaching math.”
The Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) tests measure an individual student’s growth throughout the year instead of competency. The computerized assessments track how students follow a growth path, regardless of where they begin. So a child who is already mastering math concepts at grade level or above is expected to keep improving Ð and a significant number are not.
“Many who aren’t making adequate growth are the very bright kids,” said Cavallo.
Field-Stevenson Principal Robert Giovannoni agreed. “These students don’t need remediation, they need enrichment,” he said.
Giovannoni said the MAP tests are recommending that some 3rd through 5th grade students be learning algebra, logic, reasoning and geometry with manipulatives. He and Grant-White Principal Wendy Trotter said the recommendations are pushing some teachers out of their comfort level.
“We have reading specialists, we could use a math specialist– if I may make a lame duck recommendation,” Giovannoni said. (He’s retiring at the end of this year.)
Forest Park Middle School Principal Karen Bukowski said that the middle school has a traveling math coach who visits from the West Cook Math Initiative once a month. Bukowski said the middle school students use targeted computer exercises with programs such as IXL Math Exercises to drill certain concepts and develop mastery.
Math wasn’t the only area where bright students were not demonstrating growth through the year. MAP reading evaluation showed that a significant portion of high-achieving readers had made no growth. For example, out of 60 high-level reading fifth-graders, 25 of the best readers showed no growth by the middle of the year and 35 had met or exceeded the growth goals. Four of the slower readers had not showed growth and 17 had met or exceeded projected growth.
“Once we did the winter benchmark assessments we looked at the individual scores immediately. Then we could see these kids are not growing at the rate they should be,” said Cavallo. “We are able to say let’s change now and make game time decisions.”
“We’ve been so focused on the ISAT tests over the years and meeting the needs of student that are underachieving. We should be focusing on continuous improvement for each child.”
Mainly digesting all of the MAP results is a challenge this year, the principals agreed. “Our staff needs more time to analyze the data and make lesson plan ideas for each kid,” said Jamie Stauder, Garfield Elementary principal.
Superintendent gets a B
The District 91 school board announced the results of the evaluation of Superintendent Dr. Lou Cavallo and graded him a 3 on a five-point scale of 0 – 4. The ‘3’ grade ranked Cavallo as “above average/proficient” in competency and performance level, according to board material. The board is using a new evaluation tool this year.
Cavallo called it “fair, accurate and helpful” and added, “If I got a 4 every year I would be unhappy with that.”
The superintendent was graded by the board on skills such as leadership and collaboration, problem analysis, insight, organization ability, planning, change facilitation, communication, climate and culture. The board also evaluated him on policy and governance and management of human resources and labor relations. This is the middle of Cavallo’s fifth year as superintendent. His current salary is $188,349. The board will increase his salary for next year in closed session at an upcoming meeting.
“The board and I set goals together and we work together for an action plan. My evaluation is based on our strategic goals. I’m usually the one who tells them ‘no we’re not meeting our goal. There are things that we need to do better,'” he said. “I want to make sure we’re focused what we’re doing for kids.”