Madison Students Buck Statewide Trend, Show Gains in Learning Last Year

New standardized test data for students enrolled at public schools in Madison buck widespread declines by school districts across the state, when compared to 2018-19 test scores.

According to state data from the Smarter Balanced Assessment, 69 percent of students in grades 3 to 8 in Madison performed at grade level in English in the year 2018-19. Remarkably, that number rose to 73.2 percent for students learning fully in-person for 2019-20. The number of students learning at grade level in math rose as well, from 66.8 percent to 69.2 percent last year. 

Craig Cooke, superintendent of schools in Madison, said that the district actually had fewer students opting out of the test this year, but that teachers encouraged students to take more time to focus on the exam during the test day without hurrying through it.

“We saw really strong improvement in upper elementary grades. I think that principals and teachers did a phenomenal job in having students take their time with the tests,” Cooke said.

Cooke said his district also put in place strategies to support students more generally. He said that after recognizing students would have additional needs, the district shifted coaches, who would normally work with teachers, into the role of interventionists, who work with students.

Smaller class sizes and the availability materials and resources also may have played a role in student success, Cooke suggested.

For Madison, grade-level breakdowns show gains in English for all grades except third, and gains in grades 5 to 8 for mathematics. The most substantial gains were for grades 7 and 8.

Cooke said he was also pleased with the district’s performance in the Next Generation Science Standards, which measures proficiency for grades 5, 8 and 11, and the SAT scores for students in grade 11.

According to Cooke, the district is planning additional intervention for third graders this year. He said the district is using federal funding to hire interventionists to continue working with the students, allowing coaches to return to their usual roles. He also said that the grade 4 curriculum would place greater attention on reviewing English and mathematics that the students were expected to learn last year.

Cooke said that while assessments helped the districts understand gaps in learning, he firmly believes that tests are not the “end-all, be-all” for the students, and he said that going forward, the district would continue to focus on social-emotional learning and student health.

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