SAGE worth the price?The future of the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program is in question again in the Superior school district.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The future of the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program is in question again in the Superior school district.
At Monday’s committee of the whole meeting, Superior superintendent Janna Stevens told the School Board a decision was needed about the future of the program. She recently went through data and the numbers are not encouraging.
When comparing Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations scores of fourth-grade students who participated in SAGE with those who did not, Stevens said 62 percent of the SAGE students ranked as proficient or advanced compared to 51 percent of their counterparts.
Within the Superior district, Stevens compared test scores of students at Great Lakes and Four Corners — the one district school not in the SAGE program. Stevens found no significant difference between the two groups.
“I won’t pretend I can say it (SAGE) has made a major difference,” Stevens said.
Five Superior elementary schools participate in SAGE – Bryant, Cooper, Great Lakes, Lake Superior and Northern Lights. The program provides schools with funding in kindergarten through third grade based on the number low-income students enrolled. Schools accepting SAGE money must keep class sizes at a 15:1 student-teacher ratio and provide professional development opportunities for teachers.
This fall, Superior asked the state for a waiver when 10 of its 77 SAGE sections exceeded the acceptable student-teacher ratio. If the board votes to continue SAGE for the 2010-11 school year, Stevens said three more teachers must be added to comply with class size standards.
Stevens then outline three options to deal with SAGE.
First, the district can continue with the program exactly as it is. In that case, three teachers will be reassigned to SAGE classes. Stevens said teachers would likely come from the sixth-grade level, increasing class sizes there from 22:1 to 28:1.
The second option is to drop SAGE entirely. If done, class sizes for all students in K-12 would increase to about a 25:1 ratio. The 19 teachers currently employed using SAGE funding would be laid off.
The final option is a compromise, eliminating SAGE from a portion of the schools and retaining the program where it is most needed. Under the plan, Great Lakes, Bryant and Cooper elementary schools would all opt out of the SAGE program, leaving Lake Superior and Northern Lights as the only two SAGE schools in the district. Nine or 10 teachers would likely be let go.
Stevens said any decision has drawbacks.
“Our concern is any class size going up is going to negatively impact the kids,” Stevens said. Her other major concern is the effect lost teaching jobs would have on the community, especially in this economy.
A committee of teachers, administrators and staff from the district elementary schools recently formed to solve the SAGE problem. Stevens has worked with the group to analyze the pros and cons of the program, and after serious discussion, the committee recommended the district find a way to make SAGE work, even if it means larger classes in the upper grade levels.
The board is not yet convinced, though.
Board member Mary Klun was one of SAGE’s biggest supporters when Superior first adopted the program in the late 1990s. After seeing the latest data, she and the rest of the board must re-examine the value of SAGE.
“I’m disappointed in the results,” Klun said. She had expected a significant change in learning, but data collected so far does not show a noteworthy increase in student achievement.
“The big prop you had to support your argument doesn’t seem to be there, so how do you justify spending money on that program?” Klun asked.
Bonnie Baker, chair of the board’s teaching and learning committee, asked that more information be gathered and evaluated. She wanted to be sure all data was considered carefully.
Klun agreed, adding that with closer inspection, the district may learn why the expected results have not been actualized.
“I don’t know that I want to make a big decision without more data,” Klun said.