BELOIT—The School District of Beloit Turner is analyzing state testing data released by the Department of Public Instruction Wednesday as test scores were above state averages in some areas, but below state averages in others.

“As a district, we saw some scores exceed the statewide average and some fall slightly below. Testing did not take place in 2019-2020 due to the pandemic, so the 2020-2021 results are the first time districts have had a chance to review data since 2018-2019,” said Turner Superintendent Dennis McCarthy.

The Wisconsin Student Assessment System consists of the Forward Exam given in grades three through eight and 10, the ACT Aspire is given in grades nine and 10, the ACT with writing in grade 11, and Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) given across all tested grades to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The results were released by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on Wednesday.

McCarthy said this past year was unique since many students opted out of testing due to selecting homebound virtual instruction and choosing not to come in for testing.

Statewide, 13.3% of students did not take the Forward exams and locally, 15.5% of School District of Beloit Turner students did not take the exams.

“This is a significant amount of students that clearly are skewing results,” McCarthy said.

On the overall 11th grade ACT composite score, statewide the average for all students was 19.1. The average for School District of Beloit Turner students was 19.6.

On the 11th grade ACT English language arts test, statewide 33% of students scored proficient or better. In the School District of Beloit Turner, 50.9% of students scored proficient or better.

On the 11th grade ACT Math Test, statewide 25.5% of students scored proficient or better. In the School District of Beloit Turner 33.6% of students scored proficient or better.

On the ACT Aspire English Language Arts Test in grades 9-10, statewide 32.3% of students scored proficient or better. In the School District of Beloit Turner, 34.8% of students scored proficient or better.

On the ACT Aspire Math Test in grades 9-10, statewide 29.8% of students scored proficient or better. In the School District of Beloit Turner, 26.7% of students scored proficient or better.

Overall, 33.7% of students in grades 3-8 in the state scored proficient or better on the English Language Arts Forward test. In the School District of Beloit Turner, 30.3% of students scored proficient or better. At Townview, 33.1% of students scored proficient or better. At the middle school level, 25.7% of students scored proficient or better.

Overall, 33.6% of students in grades 3-8 in the state tested proficient or better on the math Forward tests. In the School District of Beloit Turner, 27.2% of students scored proficient or better. At Townview, 37% of students scored proficient or better. At the middle school level, 18% scored proficient or better.

“There is no doubt, the last year and a half has had a significant impact on students across the state and that is no different than what we are seeing in our own school system. The way to address academic performance is to plan forward and that is exactly what we have been working on,” McCarthy said. “As educators, we have committed ourselves to work with our students and families on three main areas of focus: academic performance, student safety, and social and emotional wellness. The last year and a half has impacted students in all three of these areas and it is important that we find a balance so no single area suffers.”

McCarthy said many of Turner’s best academic practices such as small group instruction, 1:1 intervention and flexible classroom learning groups have been a challenge to be able to undertake with the stringent safety protocols asked of staff during the course of the last year and a half.

“The best place for our students to learn is here in our schools and that has also been a challenge over the course of the past three school years beginning March of 2020 when all schools were required to go virtual. We fully expect that our academic performance will increase as long as our students can stay in school and learn in the ways that we are accustomed to teaching students with a focus on individualized and small group needs versus a primary method of whole group instruction,” he said.

Academically, the district is implementing intervention strategies focused on skill attainment that may be lacking for students. With those same students, educators want to practice front loading their instruction so they feel confident when new standards are introduced. For example in math, at the middle and high school the district has built math learning labs into schedules for students who need additional support where lessons are focused on front loading for success.

“By meeting students individually at their levels, we can provide specific instruction allowing them to reach their academic potential,” McCarthy said.

The most important commitment school can make is not to let the past dictate our future. McCarthy said those in the district need to set realistic learning goals with each individual student and focus on one year or more of academic growth. Students then need to see where they are at as individuals and have goals set that are achievable.

“That begins with students feeling safe and connected in the school environment and building strong relationships with our staff and their peers. This is why, in addition to our academic goals, we have committed to social and emotional learning lessons for all students that focus on self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, relationship skills and social awareness. These are the five core competencies of social and emotional learning,” McCarthy said. “We recognize there is work to be done to help our students be successful and reach academic goals, and we are committed as a district to making that happen. We believe that all students can learn and grow when provided with quality instruction in a safe and supportive environment.”