Sussex - Scores on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination and Wisconsin Alternative Assessment continued to rise in the Hamilton School District.
The district flexed its academic muscle on this year's tests - considered by many to be barometers of a school district's overall academic prowess. Hamilton remained among the heavyweights in Waukesha County, consistently outscoring the state average and most other school districts in a county that often produces some of the state's highest scores. The district also improved on almost all of its scores from the 2010-11 school year.
Students in fourth, eighth, and 10th grade take the state standardized test each November. It measures students' academic aptitude in five core areas - reading, language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, and then groups their scores into minimum performance, basic, proficient and advanced categories. Schools are generally measured on the number of students in the advanced and proficient categories.
On this year's tests, for example, almost every fourth-grader (99.7 percent) in the Hamilton School District scored in the advanced or proficient categories on the social studies portion of the WKCE, while nearly 97 percent of district eighth-graders scored advanced or proficient in reading.
On the language arts portion of the test, the portion which consistently sees the lowest scores statewide, 89.9 percent of fourth-graders, 81.8 percent of eighth-graders, and 89 percent of 10th-graders scored at the advanced or proficient levels. The state averages were 76.8 percent, 64.2 percent, and 70.1 percent respectively in the same grade levels. Hamilton outpaced the state average for 10th-graders by 18.9 percentage points in language arts.
Hamilton School District Superintendent Kathleen Cooke said she was pleased with school district's continued string of strong performances.
"Our strategic plan has really emphasized academic achievement. We have really been focusing on rigorous standards and high-quality instruction. The WKCEs are one aspect of what we look at to monitor the health of our programs and the success of the children," she said. "We also look at ACT scores and Advanced Placement performance, and graduation rate. This is something we look at over time, all of these areas. So this is a single score, a single point in time, with one group of students, but we look at then the trend overall and the trends have been increasing scores, and this continues that."
Cooke said that the district will use the data to help set departmental achievement goals with an eye toward improvement. The superintendent noted that over the past few years, the district has focused heavily on improving its reading and math scores.
Compared to a year ago, scores shot upward in almost every measurement with the exception of eighth-grade reading, which dropped from 97.3 percent advanced or proficient to 96.9 percent. Mathematics in eighth and 10th grade dropped from 94.6 percent to 94.3 percent and 87.8 percent to 86.4 percent respectively. Tenth-grade science scores fell from 90.5 percent to 88.4 percent, while 10th-grade social studies nudged downward from 93.2 percent last year to 89.6 percent this year.
Notable upticks in scores included a 4.4 percentage point increase in the eighth-grade language arts scores from 2010-11 as well as a 4.1 percent increase and a 3.8 percent increase in fourth and eighth grade science scores respectively.
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