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  • Dr. Kristi Cole

The Promise of What is Possible

Fall is here and with that comes the annual release of the results of the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS) exams administered to scholars during the spring of the 2022-2023 school year. Both last year and this year, we shared our combined exam proficiency data with families, staff and the community as is common for most districts. This year, we’re taking a deeper dive into the data to share what we’re learning about our scholars, our approaches to increasing proficiency, our challenges and the questions we’re asking ourselves. This will be the first of a series of blogs covering our results.



Third Grade Scholars Exceed State Proficiency Rates in Reading & Math


When we opened the doors to The Lincoln Academy (TLA) we made a number of commitments to the community, to our scholars and to our school families. Perhaps the most important was a commitment to academic rigor and to ensuring scholars are proficient in core subjects, particularly English (ELA) and Math. We are pleased to share, after just two years, we are beginning to see the promise of what is possible.



Forward Exam proficiency rates for TLA third grade scholars included ELA 37.3% and Math 51.2%. Wisconsin scholars in the same grades scored proficient at a rate of 37.0% in ELA, 47.9% in Math.


These results are especially noteworthy when you consider that our third grade scholars weathered covid during much of their kindergarten and 1st grade years, most at home in a remote learning environment. The recovery work being done is critical for scholars. When you compare 2021-2022 MAP projections of proficiency rates of 15% in ELA and 48.7% in Math for second graders to the 2022-2023 Forward exam proficiency rates of 37.3% in ELA and 51.2% in Math for third graders, you see a dramatic jump.


Why It Matters


Research tells us third grade reading proficiency is a crucial marker in educational development; it is highly correlated with future school success and high school graduation. These early grades are foundational, and we understand it is essential that we help our young scholars build basic skills in order to pave the way for a choice-filled life. There is a relevant and often noted line, “Scholars in primary grades are learning to read and by middle school are reading to learn.”


We understood this when we started TLA which was the rationale for launching with the K4-2 grade band and adding a grade each year thereafter. We knew that ‘growing our own’, in other words, growing proficiency among our early learners was essential for the long-term success of our scholars and our school. These scores reinforce those decisions, and we anticipate seeing increasing proficiency rates as our youngest scholars move toward that grade 3 marker.


Assessing What Works


Test data is an important tool as we evaluate and adjust our own work at TLA, an ongoing and critical component of our work. After all, charter schools have, since inception, been intended to serve as laboratories of innovation. At TLA, we use scholar-level data to drive academic supports - What I Need (WIN) time, small group work, and Reading Corps participation. We combine this with an environment rich in hands-on exploratory learning designed to integrate academic concepts. Our school leaders and educators are coached using the Skyrocket model which provides direct coaching on classroom management, content mastery and rigorous instruction. And we use data for virtually everything.


With these practices as the foundation, the TLA team made a number of adjustments in the 2022-23 school years to address the 2nd grade learning gaps identified through our data assessment. The primary adjustment: continuing to work side-by-side with our dedicated and committed teachers and educational assistants through the coaching process to refine specific strategies. TLA used data to ensure we were supporting small group interventions and providing solid educational instruction. While we still have room to grow and significant hard work ahead the results reinforce our unwavering belief in the capabilities of our scholars.


To access comprehensive result data, you may visit the DPI website at WISEdash Public Portal - Department of Public Instruction


Next Up: Middle School - Opportunities Ahead


While it is important to celebrate the promise of our youngest scholars, it is equally important to help our older scholars who often come to TLA well-below their current grade levels. The next blog will share our results, our learning and the strategies we are deploying to help our scholars succeed.


Dr. Kristi Cole is the Chief Education Officer at The Lincoln Academy, a K4-12 independent 2x charter school in Beloit, Wisconsin.



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