La Crosse schools low test scores appear worse than reality, leader says

La Crosse School District curriculum director says Achievement Gap test scores are a small part of bigger picture
Achievement Gap

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – La Crosse elementary school falling test scores paint a picture of a challenging year in education. However, these numbers need context to understand the whole picture. One school leader said data tell different stories depending on how the data is viewed.

A quote popped up this week. It reads “Grades ultimately aren’t what matter. Curiosity and perseverance matter.” keep that in mind.

Most of us agree education pre-COVID-19 was just better.

“Most students will do better in person than they will in a virtual environment,” Michael Lichucki said, director of curriculum for the School District of La Crosse.  “Pandemic learning is different. Trying to teach over Zoom is challenging.”

Monday night’s La Crosse school board meeting featured Lichucki who presented a test score report.

“It’s interesting,” Lichucki said.

An Achievement Gap Reduction report required by Wisconsin. A report Lichucki presents in order to receive money from a state program to help the district.

Declining scores was the theme of the night.

About 77 percent of kindergarteners hit the fall benchmark from 2016-2019. The same average exists for the winter period over the same four years.

But the percentage fell to 53 this past fall and 56 this winter. First grade and kindergarten math tests posted similar declines.

The data shows students are falling farther behind at face value, but Lichucki said people need to read between the numbers.

“That is not how we’re supposed to do our assessments that is a big factor,” Lichucki said.

Students took these assessments over Zoom. The virtual environment played a role in the results in Lichucki’s opinion. He expects more accurate data in the spring.

“We can expect about a 10-point drop in academic achievement,” Lichucki said.

Some of us don’t test well. A test score doesn’t always reveal a child’s true ability. Remember the quote?

Ben Cichy wrote it. He recorded a 2.4 GPA his freshman year of college. He landed two spacecraft on Mars two weeks ago.

Lichucki says ask a teacher about their students’ progress and they’ll tell you.

“Those interactions they have with students, that’s the best measure we can have,” Lichucki said.

Click here to watch the full school board meeting from March 1, 2021.