District 65 test scores for new kindergarteners plunge in pandemic year

By several measures, Joseph E. Hill Early Childhood Education Center (JEH) District 65 alumni appear to be at least on par with their private school peers in some areas when they enter kindergarten, said Sharon Sprague, director early childhood programs at the Hill Center at the Jan. 31 District 65 school board meeting. While academic achievement declined during the pandemic year, measures of social-emotional learning showed that most student needs were being met.

Long-term assessment, however, is not possible at this time because the district changed testing for its new kindergarten children in fall 2020 and did not provide data that would show how scores for the new test correlates with previous tests.

At the start of her presentation, Dr. Sprague said, “I just wanted to remind everyone of the unique demographics of our early years center. All JEH students must demonstrate risk factors for future academic success in one or more criteria in order to be selected for admission to our special education or subsidized programs. … We have a larger than average distribution of students receiving special education services.

The demographics of JEH’s 257 students break down as follows: Black, 30%; Latinx, 30%; white, 22%; Asian, 7%

Currently, she said, 33% of JEH students have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) — ​​about the same as in 2020, when 33% of students had an IEP, and in 2021, when the number was 34%.

“Additionally,” said Dr. Sprague, “this year, approximately two-thirds of our students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and all Head Start students meet the free and reduced-price lunch requirements. .”

Dr. Sprague reviewed the six goals of the district’s early childhood program strategic plan implemented approximately three years ago and updated board members on what has been done and areas that still need to be improved. improved. Taken together, the goals envision a collaborative approach to teaching by a diverse staff, a culturally competent curriculum that prepares preschoolers for kindergarten, and adequate resources allocated to achieve the goals.

The JEH team has created “Effective Leadership Systems” that emphasize the need for collaborative practices; common time allocated for planning; and rely on data collection, review and analysis.

The team continues to “work to further diversify our workforce so that our students and their families see themselves reflected in their learning leaders,” she said. JEH also “provides trauma-informed classrooms through the implementation of research-based curricula.”

Family engagement, which was problematic at best during lockdown, has increased. More and more parents are attending teacher conferences and volunteering is growing.

Dr. Sprague presented data from various tests and surveys to demonstrate the progress of each goal.

5Essentials for school improvement

JEH assessed progress on Goal 5, Strengthening Family and Community Partnerships, through the results of the state-mandated 5Essentials survey. The “Essentials” – effective leaders, collaborative teachers, engaged families, supportive environment and challenging teaching – are considered the primary indicators of school improvement.

Parents who responded to the latest 5Essentials survey showed increased satisfaction in three areas: families involved, 62% in 2021, compared to around 58% in 2019 and 59% in 2020; effective managers, 42% in 2021, compared to 40% in 2019, then a drop to 26% in 2020; and collaborative teachers, 40% in 2021, compared to 19% in 2019 and 17% in 2020.

Data from 5Essentials indicates “we are moving towards an ‘organization’ for continuous improvement,” Dr. Sprague said. “Despite the operational and systemic setbacks caused by the global pandemic, we are moving in the right direction and must remain focused to continue this growth.”

MAP Test for Kindergarten Literacy

JEH used one of the Academic Progress Measurement (MAP) tests to assess kindergarten literacy.

JEH Alums in Kindergarten

In three categories, a lower percentage of JEH alumni who entered kindergarten in the fall of 2022 met or exceeded the standards than JEH alumni who entered kindergarten the previous year: “oral comprehension » (42% in 2022 compared to 68% in 2021); “Phonetic recognition of words (75% in 2022 compared to 84% in 2021); “Illustrated vocabulary” (52% in 2022 compared to 71% in 2021); and “Phonological awareness” (69% in 2022 versus 82% in 2021).

Dr Sprague noted that 2020-2021 was “a school year in which two-thirds of our students were in distance learning all year and engagement issues were an ongoing struggle.”

There are no standards for assessing the Sentence Reading Fluency category, so both cohorts were presented at 100%.

While the report offered a comparison of recent MAP test results given in the fall of 2020 and 2021 to the Illinois Snapshot of Early Literacy (ISEL) results given in the fall of 2019 and prior years, the district did not did not provide information to show that the tests are comparable, that the benchmarks used to assess whether a student has met expectations are comparable, or that the district currently uses a metric to measure kindergarten readiness that is comparable to that which used in fall 2019 and before years.

On February 1 and 2, the roundtable requested this information from three separate divisions in District 65, but no information was provided. Last year, the Roundtable requested similar information, but none was provided.

In fall 2019 and prior, the district considered children who scored above the 50th percentile on four ISEL subtests as “kindergarten ready”.

JEH and other pre-K experience

Comparing the results of the same MAP test between kindergarten students who were JEH alumni and kindergarten students who had other pre-K experiences (“non-JEH alumni”) showed that a higher percentage of non-JEH alumni met or exceeded standards. The differences were generally less than 10 percentage points: in oral comprehension 51% against 42%; in phonological word recognition, 83% versus 75%; in phonological awareness, 80% versus 69%. In the “Illustrated Vocabulary” category, the difference was higher, 67% for non-JEH alumni versus 52% for JEH alumni.

Again, there are no standards for assessing “sentence reading fluency,” so each child was rated as meeting or exceeding the standards.

Add guardians and social workers

To achieve Goal 6, align resources with goals to ensure student success, JEH added 3.6 academic skills tutors and increased the number of social workers from 1.6 FTEs to 2.4 FTEs. The extra support from social work “helped provide better MTSS [multi-tiered system of supports] social emotional supports,” Dr. Sprague said.

She also said JEH is “shifting our resources into special education, creating staffing allocations that allow us to move more students to inclusive environments.”

Overall, in striving to improve kindergarten readiness, Dr Sprague said, “We have been careful to disaggregate our data across racial/ethnic groups to monitor for any signs of an achievement gap in development.”

Two-and-a-half years into the three-year strategic plan, she said, data on preschoolers and JEH alumni “indicate that we have started delivering results to our JEH alumni.”

Board members praised Dr. Sprague for her work and progress, citing past community efforts such as Cradle to Career and Evanston’s community foundations “Every Child Ready for Kindergarten” which highlighted the importance of education. from early childhood.


District 65 Strategic Plan Goals for the Joseph E. Hill Early Childhood Education Center

1. Ensure that the JEH Center is well organized for continuous improvement.

2. Create a culture in which teaching and learning are guided by diversity, equity and inclusion.

3. Create a climate in which the socio-emotional developmental needs of students are considered and supported.

4. Ensure that all children are individually prepared for kindergarten.

5. Strengthen family and community partnerships to support learning opportunities.

6. Align resources with goals to ensure student success.

Norma A. Roth