On Jan. 23, School District 65 administrators published the District’s 2016 Achievement and Accountability Report provides data showing how students have performed on the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test given in the spring of the last four years. 

The Report provides data showing whether the District is making progress toward meeting the Board’s four goals: 1) increase the percent of students on track to college readiness in reading and math; 2) decrease the percent of students in the bottom quartile in reading and math; 3) increase the percent of students meeting “expected gains” in reading and math; and 4) decrease the achievement gap between groups of students in reading and math by improving performance of all subgroups.

District administrators also presented a Report on Hispanic Student Achievement at the Board’s Jan. 23 meeting, which gave a more detailed look at Hispanic achievement in the District.

One highlight in both reports is there have been significant increases in the percentages of students meeting their annual “expected growth” targets during the last two years, said Peter Godard, Director of Research, Accountability and Data for the District. 

Mr. Godard pointed out that the percentage of black and Hispanic students meeting their annual growth targets is roughly the same as that of white students, but a significant gap in achievement continues to persist using other measures, such as the percentage of students who are on track to college readiness. 

Mr. Godard said the reports “continue our commitment to presenting information in a transparent way and using information as we think about driving improvements and where we focus our attention.

 “We’ve had a tremendous amount of training in the last year about really helping people to understand what implicit bias means and how it affects students who are entering our schools,” said Mr. Godard. As an outgrowth of this process, he said the test data should be interpreted using a “lens for equity,” and he highlighted two points.

First, he said, “When aggregated data show that members of a particular subgroup score below benchmarks, these outcomes reflect a failure of the education and social systems that are intended to give every student the opportunity to succeed. Such results should not be used to draw conclusions about the efforts or abilities of these students or families.”

Second, he said, “When aggregated data show that subgroups in District 65 are outperforming state or national averages or that achievement gaps in our District are similar to those at the State or national level, these results do not mean we should feel any less urgency in our efforts to promote equity.”

Gaps Exists at Kindergarten

“Kindergarten readiness is really an important issue,” said Mr. Godard. He said 58% of the students who entered kindergarten in 2016 were “kindergarten ready,” up from 53% in 2015. The percentages were 58% in 2014 and 61% in 2013.

Mr. Godard said “kindergarten ready” is provisionally defined by the District as scoring above the 50th percentile in at least four of the five areas assessed in the Illinois Snapshot of Early Learning (ISEL): alphabet recognition, phonemic awareness, one-to-one matching, letter sounds, and story listening. He cautioned that the District’s definition of kindergarten readiness has not been validated as predictive of future student performance, nor does it capture the full array of skills that are associated with readiness for kindergarten.

Data show there is a gap in the percentages of students who are kindergarten ready by both income and race. In 2016, 44% of the District’s students from low-income households (i.e., eligible for free or reduced-fee lunches) were kindergarten ready, compared to 67% of students from other households. 

In 2015, 34% of the District’s black students were kindergarten ready, compared to 64% of the white students; and in 2016, 46% of Hispanic students were kindergarten ready, according to the District’s Black and Hispanic achievement reports.

A team of early childhood educators gave a presentation to the Board at the Jan. 23 meeting about the District’s early childhood programs, including home visits and center-based programs, to help ensure that students are prepared for kindergarten in not only the literacy skills measured by ISEL, but holistically in many additional areas. 

Percent Meeting College Readiness Benchmarks

The Report provides the percentage of third- through eighth-graders who are on track to college readiness, using benchmark scores in reading and math identified for the MAP test in a 2015 Study conducted by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), the owner of the MAP test. A student who scores at the benchmark scores in reading or math is predicted to have a 50% chance of earning a B or higher in a related subject in freshman year of college.

The table below shows on a composite basis the percentage of District 65 third- through eighth-graders who were on track to college readiness in reading and math on the Spring MAP tests in the last four years. There have been slight declines since 2013.

 These are significantly higher than nationwide averages. On a nationwide basis, approximately 36% of the students taking MAP meet the college readiness benchmarks in reading, and 32% in math.

The accompanying charts below down the data by race and income. They show, on a composite basis, the percentage of black, Hispanic, white, and low-income  third- through eighth-graders at District 65 who are on track to college readiness in reading (Figure 1) and math (Figure 2).

 The charts show wide gaps in achievement by race/ethnicity and low-income status. For example, in 2016 85% of white students met college readiness benchmarks in reading, compared to 33% of black students.

The charts also show that while black students showed a two-point gain in reading in 2016, students in the remaining subgroups did about the same in 2016 as they did in 2015. And, students in each subgroup did better in 2013 than in 2016.     

The wide gap in achievement by race/ethnicity may be due in part to differences in opportunity associated with household income. For example, on the 2016 MAP test, 30% of the students who were from low-income households were on track to college readiness in reading, compared with 80% of the students who were from non-low-income income households. 

This pattern exists when the data is broken down by both income and race. For example, the Report notes that almost three times as many black students from non-low-income households met college readiness benchmarks in reading as black students from low-income households.

The table below gives the percentage of black, Hispanic and white students, disaggregated by income, who were on track to college readiness in reading on the 2016 MAP test.

The same data, however, shows that low-income status is not the only explanation for the achievement gap at District 65. For example, 58% of the black students from non-low-income households met college readiness standards in reading, compared to 87% of white students from non-low-income households.

The data also shows that the degree of poverty makes a difference. The Report indicates that 27% of students who were eligible for “free” lunch (below 130% of the poverty line) met the college readiness benchmarks in reading, compared to 46% of students who were eligible for “reduced-fee” lunch (between 130% and 180% of the poverty line), and compared with 80% of students who were not low-income.

Almost one-third of the District’s students are from households whose income is less than 130% of the federal poverty line.

In the 2015-16 school year, 2,731 students, or 37% of the District’s K-8 students were from low-income households. Of those, 2,352, or 32% of the District’s K-8 students, were from households eligible for free-lunch status, which means their income was less than 130% of the poverty line.

The most recent data available to the RoundTable shows that about 79% of the District’s black students, 67% of Hispanic students, and 7% of white students are from low-income households.

The Report says, “Independently, both household income and race/ethnicity are important factors in academic achievement that require study and action.”

Percent in Bottom Quartile

The percent of Hispanic students in the bottom national quartile decreased in both reading and math between 2015 and 2016, and the percent of black students in the bottom quartile decreased in reading. The table below gives the trends.

Here again, degree of poverty is a significant predictive factor. For example, 30% of the District’s students from households eligible for free-lunch status (below 130% of the federal poverty line) scored below the 25th percentile nationally, compared to 18% of the students on reduced-fee lunch status (between 130% and 180% of the federal poverty line), and 4% of non-low-income households.

Meeting Expected Gains

One of the Board’s goals is that students will meet “expected gains” on the MAP test. The “best news of all” in the reports is the significant increase in the number of students meeting their expected gains, said Mr. Godard.

To meet expected gains in 2016, students must have increased their score on the 2016 Spring MAP test above their score on the 2015 Spring MAP test by an amount determined by NWEA. The increase is essentially the average growth of students in the nation who are in the same grade level and who started out with the same 2015 Spring MAP score. On a nationwide basis, approximately 50% of the students meet expected gain using this approach.

In addition, though, District 65 has added an extra criterion: a student’s gain must be greater than the increase plus the sum of the standard errors of both test scores. “Making expected gains in District 65 is a pretty high bar,” said Mr. Godard.

Mr. Godard pointed out that in the last two years there were between 5 and 10 point gains for black, Hispanic and low-income students in both reading and math, and a 7 point gain for white students in reading.

The table below gives the percent of students by subgroup who made expected gains in math and reading in the last four years.

While the percentages vary by subgroup, Mr. Godard said, “the gap in black and Hispanic students making expected gains compared to white students is relatively small compared to the gap in the percent of students meeting college readiness benchmarks in reading and math.”

In essence, black, Hispanic, and low-income students are making gains each year, but their growth is not accelerated to close the achievement gap.

Moreover, even though the percentage of students making expected gains has increased significantly in the last two years, this has not translated into significant gains in other metrics. For example, the percentage of students meeting college readiness benchmarks has not increased significantly.

 In one analysis, the District analyzed changes in average scale scores on the MAP test during the last four years. On a composite basis for all grade levels, the Report says, “The 2016 average math scale score was 3.0 scale points lower than in 2013.” For reading, the decline was about 1.0.

Candance Chow asked what amount of annual growth is necessary so more students will meet the benchmark of college readiness, or another threshold that the District might choose?

Using the Data to Guide Change

Mr. Godard said school-based teams have been asking his department to provide them data disaggregated in different ways, so they can better analyze and track various student cohorts over time. He said, “They are looking at creative ways to figure out what can be done at a school-based level,” and “The District is providing support to execute their strategies.”

John Price, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, summarized two things the District is doing at a macro-level. One is building capacity of the District and school staff to monitor how effectively are strategies and the curriculum being implemented in the schools and in the day-to-day instruction.

In addition, he said administrators are helping school leaders and teachers to make more in depth analyses of data, including going well beyond the end-of-year cumulative summary data. “We need to look deeper, look at individual students, look into different MAP, NWEA reports, and then decide what do we do tomorrow, what do we do next year that’s going to change the outcomes for students,” he said.

Lauren Leitao, Bilingual Curriculum Coordinator, summarized a number of things the District was doing to improve bilingual education.

Dr. Goren said the District is making progress, but, “It’s not sufficient. We have a long way to go, as we think about equity, as we think about equitable outcomes, and as we think about making decisions so our kids can be successful in District 65 and they can be successful in 202 and beyond. This is all part of that.”

The School Board and administrators are scheduled to discuss the District’s Achievement Report at the Board’s next meeting.

The Report on Hispanic Achievement presented data showing the percentage of Hispanic students who scored above the 40th percentile on the 2012 – 2016 MAP tests, broken out by language program and household income.

The table below has two columns, one for low-income households and one for non-low income households. The row, “Former TWI” comprises students who were English language learners in the TWI program. The row “Other EL” comprises students who were English language learners who took an English language learning program other than TWI or who waived participating in an English language learning class. The row “Never EL” comprises students who did not qualify for an English language program.

The data shows that “By 8th grade, TWI students and other EL students are on par with their non-EL Hispanic students in exceeding the 40th percentile in reading when controlled for household income,” says the Report.

Scoring above the 40th percentile in reading is important because students who are above that benchmark may participate in Evanston Township High School’s earned honors program in freshman Humanities.

The table below presents similar data for Hispanic 8th graders who met college readiness benchmarks on the MAP test.

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...