School district data contains clues for future successesIn the last few years, the Superior school district has launched a number of efforts to gather data on how well its students are learning. With school now out for the summer, administrators and teachers have taken on the task of sorting through that data.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
In the last few years, the Superior school district has launched a number of efforts to gather data on how well its students are learning. With school now out for the summer, administrators and teachers have taken on the task of sorting through that data.
“What I’m learning about data is that no matter how much you look at it, you always have more questions,” said Mary Anne Korsch, Superior curriculum director.
To help with the process, the district sought the advice of an outside consultant. He met with Superior school district staff June 30 to delve more deeply into the numbers and to develop a process to head off potential problems before they occur.
The consultant’s services were provided free though Scholastic. The book publishing company offers the service to interact with possible customers.
“This is a very economical way for us to get some really good information,” Korsch said.
All of the district principals met with the consultant, and what they learned will serve as the basis for administrative team meetings throughout the year. Korsch said staff will spend the remainder of the summer reviewing trends the consultant outlined and laying a course for each school.
“I think it will really help us anticipate what the issues might be and be proactive about them before we get to a point of being identified as not making yearly progress,” Korsch said.
Superior Middle School was the only school in the district that failed to meet all adequate yearly progress standards in 2009-2010. Schools that miss the same objective two years in a row are listed as “identified for improvement” and risk losing Title I funding.
The middle school failed to meet reading requirements for its special education subgroup in the latest Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations. All students in grade 3-8 and 10 take the test in reading and math; in addition, fourth-, eighth- and 10th-grade students test in language arts, science and social studies. The state uses the test scores to measure school progress, requiring 74 percent of students to score as proficient or advanced in reading and 58 percent in math to make yearly progress goals.
About 46 percent of SMS special education students tested at the needed level in reading, down more than two percent from the year before. It marked the second year in a row SMS special education students missed a progress objective.
Last year, the subgroup missed in math. The district improved scores this year, though, to meet standards and retain a satisfactory rating.
“We’ve been paying quite a bit of attention to math,” Korsch said. “Actually we were notified last fall that we were awarded a Title I supplemental grant from DPI specifically to address math. The reason that those grants are given is to hopefully be proactive enough to head off a second year in the same category.”
The district is now turning its attention to reading, and the middle school special education program as a whole will also undergo changes said Kathy Hinders, director of education and student services.
“The special education department is restructuring how it delivers services to special education kids, specifically in the areas of reading and math,” Hinders said.
The district plans to implement a special education system at the middle school similar to the one now used at the high school. Going over the district’s data is the first step, Hinders said. Once the special education department had identified the students most likely to need extra help, they’ll be enrolled in an additional reading intervention class. In math, the middle school will employ co-teaching methods, where a general education teacher and special education teacher both instruct together in the classroom.
“We think that we’ve got a pretty solid plan,” Hinders said. “We’ve been doing it at the high school, last year, and have found great success for kids at the high school. The middle school is now going to move more to that model of delivery for kids that are most at risk in those two core areas.”
Last year was the first year the high school implemented its new practices, so results won’t be seen on the WKCE until this fall.
Likewise, the district will wait more than a year to see what impact its efforts at the middle school have on test scores.
“We’ve got a lot of other data that we’re going to be watching that can inform us if we’re going in the right direction. And if we’re not then we’ll tweak it again,” Hinders said.
“The team effort in this school district is very, very impressive,” Korsch said. “When we uncover an issue, there is a real dedication to getting at what the issue is without a lot of blaming. So I’m optimistic, and I also am enough of a realist to know that if we end up with an issue, we’ll figure it out.”
The percentages required to meet adequate yearly progress standards go up statewide for the 2010-11 school year. Proficiency goals increase to 80.5 percent in reading and 68.5 percent in math.
“I think in a lot of cases were close right now to that,” Korsch said. “I have a lot of confidence in our teaching staff. I know they’re digging in and really anticipating how they can best serve kids and get kids to those higher levels.”
If state standards had been at that level last school year, Superior would have missed progress in third-, fourth- and 10th-grade reading. In math, the district would have remained above the proficiency goal at all seven grade levels tested.
The state is in the process of scrapping the current concepts exam and implementing a new statewide assessment system, but it is unclear what the new standards will be under that system.
The framework for the WKCE set 2013-14 as the year all districts were expected to attain 100 percent student proficiency.
In Superior’s 2008 test results, the 10th-grade scores were the low point for the district. The sophomores fell below the state average in four of the five areas, surpassing state numbers only in science.
The 2009 test results show Superior sophomores exceeding the state average in all but language arts. The greatest improvements came in reading and math, where 76 and 70 percent of students, respectively, scored as proficient or advance — a 5 percent increase in reading from 2008 and a 6 percent increase in math.
Superior went against the statewide trend with its improvement. Overall, state averages fell at the 10th grade level. The only increase came in reading, where Wisconsin students increased their scores by two percent.
“There’s a lot of really good work going on in the ninth-grade teams, the teacher teams that are working with ninth grade kids,” Korsch said. “They meet regularly and talk about student achievement issues; they communicate well and this year they’ve been working quite a bit with our literacy coach at the high school. So next year when those kids are 10th-graders, we can look forward to some results from that.”
The Superior 10th-grade special education students also scored better than their peers did statewide in every category. The special education students improved most of its scores by about 10 percent and saw a jump of almost 30 percent in math.