Dr. John Tharp is superintendent of Greendale Schools. Dr. Tharp joined the district in August of 2012 and has 20 years of experience in public education. He previously served as an assistant superintendent in a large suburban district in Tennessee for two years. Prior to that, he was a high school principal, assistant principal, teacher, and coach. Dr. Tharp received his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was a James Madison Memorial Foundation Fellowship Award winner. He is the author of one book on school reform.
In the coming weeks, Greendale students will take the state standardized tests known at the WKCEs. Students in third through eighth grades, and tenth graders will take tests in reading and mathematics, and students in fourth, eighth, and tenth grades will also be tested in social studies, science, language arts, and writing. The results of these tests will be reported to schools and parents in the spring. They are used to measure student proficiency and to let the public know how students are performing in each school through school and district accountability data known as the State of Wisconsin School Report Cards released in the fall.
WKCEs are based on the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards, the blueprint for teaching in our schools. Teachers use these standards to guide the curriculum in each classroom and to make daily classroom instruction decisions. As a result of the “alignment” between the standards and the tests, students are tested on what they are taught. Our teachers and administrators use the WKCE test data along with classroom and teacher data to determine the strengths of each student, as well as for focus areas of growth for each.
In the 2013 State Report Cards, Greendale Schools (GSD) earned “Exceeds Expectations.” Our students performed well on the tested information and continue to excel in reading and math. While GSD is proud of students’ academic accomplishments, teachers and administrators continue to work to improve our instructional strategies in each school and classroom so that each student receives a personalized and rigorous academic experience.
The State of Wisconsin introduced school report cards in 2012 and district report cards were new in 2013. These reports comply with Federal Race to the Top requirements and inform the public about school district academic achievement, as well as student academic growth. The accountability system is part of a package of educational reforms that also includes development of new achievement tests and new teacher and principal evaluation systems.
Test-taking time can be both stressful and exciting for students and teachers. These exams offer a whole new opportunity for schools and districts to learn. They help us to understand subjects or grade levels where a change in instructional practices is needed to promote student growth. And they show us where we can help our students do better as we prepare them for life after school.
Dr. John Tharp