Just a few days after the Elmbrook School District discovered that historically high ACT scores were achieved by students who took the exam in 2011-12, administrators were planning for even greater success.
Brookfield East's composite scores rose from 25.3 the previous school year to 25.8 while Brookfield Central's rose from 25.0 to 25.1.
Well above the sate average of 22.1 and the national average of 21.1, the scores caught the attention of the district's new administration.
"I think they are pretty spectacular," said Dana Monogue, assistant superintendent for educational learning. "We look at this from a measurement throughout the system, from kindergarten through 12th grade."
Monogue said the numbers first were revealed earlier in August, when more than 100 teachers and administrators gathered for a leadership academy at Brookfield Central.
"When they heard the results, the teachers stood up and cheered," she said. "It's a real sense of accomplishment."
The district will build on that accomplishment, Monogue said.
"I think the potential here is endless," she said, pointing to a short-term goal of having students reach an average score of 26 or 27.
To achieve that goal, Monogue said the district's responsibility is to "immerse students in difficult learning so they are challenged." It's a challenging examination that can take four hours to complete and thoroughly tests students in reading, math and science.
Monogue pointed to pre-ACT tests such as Explore for eighth-graders and Plan for those in ninth and 10th grades. The reality, she said, is that district's need to challenge students at even lower grades.
View from the schools
High school principals Dan Pavletich from East and Don LaBonte from Central said the scores represent a lot of work by administrators and teachers.
"Obviously, we are very proud," Pavletich said. "This is a highly focused learning environment with a high-quality staff. It also takes parents and students. It's not just one or two of those elements. It's an eclectic mix of reasons why the scores have been getting higher over the past several years."
The natural rivalry between the schools is a plus, in this case.
"We support each other on the way to excellence," he said. "We are fortunate to have a mind-set of competition that is not just athletic but also academic success."
LaBonte expects that the academic success will continue through the transition to a new administrative team as the result of Superintendent Matt Gibson retiring in June after 17 years.
"Superintendent Mark Hansen and Dana Monogue have come in and so far have been very dynamic in their approach," he said. "Everyone is anticipating good things in the coming year."
The coming year not only will be an opportunity to build on past success, but also to prepare for new state standards that will focus on an even higher level of learning.
Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction has adopted new common core state standards and a new assessment program from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. First planned for introduction in 2014, the new standards will emphasize application of knowledge over memorization. Students will be challenged to use the skills they learn to respond to complex real-world problems.
Smarter Balanced literature describes the standards as a "collection of questions and activities that are coherently connected to a single theme or scenario."
Smarter Balanced will replace the Wisconsin Knowledge Concepts Exam that has been in place since the late 1990s.
Not only will students be challenged in a different way, so will teachers, Monogue said, adding that districts are waiting to hear how the new standards will be introduced.
"There will be a lot of professional development built around this," she said. "We will delve into this during the coming year so we can be ready for the implementation beginning in 2014."
Highest-ever ACT scores: Brookfield East, 25.8; Brookfield Central, 25.1
Short-term goals: ACT scores of 26 or 27
New state core standards: Emphasis on applying knowledge
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