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  • Writer's pictureEmily Berry

Six month checkup

It's been six months now since I won a seat on our school board back in April. I wanted to give myself some time to find my place on the board and set priorities, and I've done that.

October promises to be a very busy month for the board, and now that I've found my feet, I want to start posting here again on a regular basis. I've promised my fellow board members "no surprises" here - I don't want them to be reading anything here that they haven't heard from me directly or information they don't already have as board members.

As you might guess, being on the board is a lot different than sitting in the audience, so my posts may feel different - but you all reading should know that I am no less passionate about the things I talked about during the campaign. It would take a very long post to update you on all of them at once here, so I'm going to keep it brief today and call your attention to the couple of things the board will be working on just a few days from now:

The agenda and background materials for our Tuesday, Oct. 8 meeting are available now, and a lot there is worth your attention. The two most significant I see are the report on achievement in math, and the report from the architecture firm working on the facilities work authorized by April's referenda.

I am deeply concerned about drops in scores on the Forward Exam for both Math and English/Language Arts (we expect to review ELA at the next meeting). We generally track what percentage of our students are either proficient or advanced in key subjects. As a board, we look for both overall high achievement and improvement, and progress on goals we've set for closing the "achievement gap," now often referred to as "educational debt" reflected in scores for white students and non-white students, especially black students, who have been historically underserved.

Looking at both of those indicators, I see reason for significant concern, and I've expressed that to my fellow board members and administrators. The district's Forward exam data is publicly available online, and it's easy to pull numbers for specific grades, view data by specific demographics and over time if you would like to see how we have fared in recent years and in comparison to other school districts. You can also read the synopsis prepared by our director of curriculum and instruction, and his analysis, which we will review at the meeting.

The numbers for 8th grade are probably the most dramatic - you can see that in math, the percentage of our 8th graders' scoring proficient or advanced in math dipped below state average.

I've written before about the limitations and usefulness of standardized test scores. I don't think we should ever tie teacher compensation to scores, nor do I think they should be the sole measure of our students' success or the quality of our district. But the fact remains that they do send a strong signal of success or shortfall - in this case too much of the latter.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the architecture firm Eppstein Uhen will give us a design and budget update. Given the large referenda approved by Shorewood voters and the impact of planned renovations across the district, the drawings and details should be of interest to the whole community - below is just one of the drawings we will review.

There are three opportunities for public comment at our meetings. Please come and share your thoughts and questions about anything on the agenda, or anything else on your mind.

If you ever have questions for the board, you can reach us at or if you want to direct something to me specifically,

Thanks for your patience these last six months as I tried to scale a steep learning curve.

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