At the District 65 School Board’s meeting on Aug. 3, the administration presented a report on progress made in year one toward meeting the District’s three-year goals adopted in Sept. 2008. The Board’s discussion focused almost entirely on the need to adopt targets for the goals, and a desire to use a mix of tests to measure progress in student achievement. The same discussion carried over into the Board’s discussion on the targets to be used for the District’s five-year strategic plan. (See story on page 23.)

The Board met in closed session earlier that afternoon, and apparently discussed the District’s three-year goals in the context of evaluating Superintendent Hardy Murphy’s performance and discussing whether to extend his contract.

“As I see it, we have three-year goals and if we were looking at achievement as an example, I think what I’m hearing the Board say when we look at the period 2008-09, what was the target and what did we do?” said Board President Keith Terry. “And from there if we go out to 2010-11, where are we trying to go at that particular point?

“I think the goals in and of themselves are great, but what are our expectations?

“What’s being asked for is a target, where do we expect to go this year over next?”

Bonnie Lockhart said, “We talked a lot about having baseline data and … looking at that data and projecting where we’d like to go or having [the administration] tell us what you think you can accomplish in a year’s time in those difficult areas to improve.”

Tracy Quattrocki said, “From looking at other districts, it seems to be more of the norm to look at a mix of measures rather than relying on one standard to judge achievement.” She said since students are already given the MAP and EXPLORE test, “it seems we should use them for the fullest overview of academic achievement in the District.”

Superintendent Hardy Murphy said the MAP and EXPLORE tests were formative (or diagnostic) tests, and if other districts were using them as a summative measure of student achievement it was an inappropriate use of the tests.

He added that the District made a conscious decision many years ago to focus on state standards and to use the ISATs to measure student achievement. He said the District uses other tests such as ISEL and MAP to diagnose student progress and to inform instruction. He said if the District published test data on ISEL, MAP and other tests, it may create new expectations and the District may lose its focus on state standards.

Ms. Quattrocki said the District had just decided to use a mix of tests to assess whether teachers were improving the achievement of students in their classrooms. “We’re going to use a mix of measures, so that’s the direction we’d like to go as a Board,” she said. “All we’re saying is can you share the information with us so we can incorporate it into goals.”

She added that the Board would collaborate with the administration in deciding what would be a reasonable target.

Ms. Lockhart expressed reservations about using diagnostic tests to set targets. Mr. Terry said, “I thought we were closer to where Ms. Quattrocki is.” Dr. Murphy said the administration would provide the test results on ISEL, MAP and DRA to the Board as part of the achievement report.

Kim Weaver said, “I think it’s not just about an ISAT test.” Referring to one of the three-year goals to “provide differentiated professional development,” she said she would like to know how many teacher training sessions were provided, and how many teachers have actually attended the classes. Board members said they wanted measurable targets.

The Board plans to discuss targets for the three-year goals at a subsequent meeting.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...