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Schools fare well in testing

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Area school districts were above average in most subject areas included in last fall's statewide testing. The Department of Public Instruction Thursday released the district results from tests completed by students in 4th, 8th and 10th grades in October 2004.

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New Richmond was above the state average in all areas except 10th grade language arts.

In fact, the scores in many areas were considerably higher than the state benchmarks. That doesn't mean the district is satisfied with their standing.

"We continue to feel like our scores should be higher," said Deb Heyerdahl, director of instruction and staff development for the district. "We're making progress, but it's probably not as fast as we'd like."

"I believe we have excellent teachers and I believe we have excellent kids. We just had a couple of real decreases in some areas."

Heyerdahl said New Richmond noticed a marked decrease in its scores for 8th grade language arts and 10th grade science.

"Those are two areas of concern that we want to be looking at," she said.

Also, the district's scores for 4th grade science have remained flat for many years, causing some concern, she added.

"When it's a long-term flat performance, you need to look more programatically," she said. "We may need to make some modifications."

New Richmond's scores fall in the "middle of the pack" when compared to districts of similar size and spending. Heyerdahl said the district and School Board are not satisfied with average.

"We believe we should be aiming for the top 25 percent," Heyerdahl said. "That's sort of a goal we've set for ourselves."

The district hopes to improve its state ranking next year by using the new Measure of Academic Progress computerized testing three times a year in grades 3 through 8 and 10th grade.

Heyerdahl said the new testing program will allow teachers to quickly evaluate their curriculum's effectiveness and make changes immediately.

"We're really excited about that," she said. "It will give us immediate feedback on a student's achievement."

St. Croix Central posted numbers well above the state average in almost all areas of testing.

Superintendent Dan Woll said the district will be analyzing its results for the next couple months before deciding what if any curriculum changes need to be made.

In an initial evaluation of the scores, Woll said district officials continue to be concerned with the social science scores.

"We've done well on the testing, and better than most," he said. "But we're interested in continuing to improve."

Woll said he continues to be troubled by low test scores in other parts of the state.

The goal of statewide testing was to close the gap between poor school districts and those in more affluent areas. In his opinion, Woll said, it hasn't worked. Northern Wisconsin schools, schools in core urban areas and district with high Native American populations continue to under perform.

"We're spinning a lot of wheels," he said.

Woll said the state needs to commit extra resources to those schools so that scores are improved statewide.

Somerset School District was generally pleased with the test results.

Superintendent Randy Rosburg said officials were particularly happy with the high reading scores at all grade levels.

"We do put a lot of energy into that area," he said. "We think it's the basis for all other learning."

Rob Berg, director of instruction at Somerset, said the district had seven higher scores this year compared to last, a few the same and one lower.

"We kind of had a break even point this year," he said.

He said the district will be addressing concerns in the area of elementary science scores in the future.

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Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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