Murray aims for higher scores

Staff Writer

Rising to meet the challenge of the state’s newly raised Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) performance expectations for reading and math and encouraging its students to take the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measure of Academic Progress (MAPS) exams more seriously were two of the main topics discussed, Nov. 23, at the Murray Elementary School Town Hall meeting.

At the Saturday morning meeting, Greg Mason, principal at Murray, 5335 S. Kenwood Ave., told the group of about 10 attendees that while Murray did have gains, it wasn’t enough to meet the new state standards.

Murray students fell short of the new testing benchmarks, though progress was made in testing results, according to Mason.

“We had growth but it wasn’t enough to meet the new standards,” Mason said.

Under the old ISAT standard on the composite score, 90.5 percent of Murray students would have tested into the meets or exceeds category. With the new state standard, only 72.3 percent of the students tested into the meets or exceeds category.

Mason said the biggest challenge is the state’s new demand on growth value. At Murray, which is a magnet school, students are already at an advanced level of learning.

“When a 3rd grader enrolls and tests in at a 5th grade level the ISAT now expects them to go higher,” Mason said. “It makes sense. We want them to keep challenging themselves, so we have to create an institution to move students to achieve what the test is asking them to do.”

NWEA’s MAP test started as an optional exam, but it is now required to determine which students move up a grade in the summer. Teacher evaluations are also tied to the MAP test, which measures student growth.

The teachers and parents at the meeting discussed ideas about how to get the students to take the exam seriously.

“We need a school-wide mind shift,” said Youlanda Snowden, assistant principal at Murray. “We need to change the environment to help with mindset.”

The group decided to create the same testing environment it does during the ISAT.

“We make sure the kids get the proper amount of sleep, eat breakfast and create a quiet testing environment for the ISATs,” said LSC member Michael Scott, who agreed with the group that the approach could also work for the MAP test.

The group also discussed goals to prepare students for Common Core State Standard Assessments that included the implementation of pre-algebra in 6th grade, teaching students how to give evidence-based responses to questions and online writing.