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School board approves Unified Improvement Plans

Staff Writer

The Archuleta School District Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the Unified Improvement Plans (UIP) for all three schools and the district overall, but not before one of the school principals was asked some pointed questions by one of the board members.

“I’d like to ask Ms. Lister specifically to respond to the same question I asked the other two principals,” board member Bruce Dryburgh said. Dryburgh referred to the report on the table in front of him. “The situation is different here. Our students, in reading, math and writing, are below the state cut point in all three. That’s not true at our other two schools, so I see a great deal of urgency in this school.”

According to the elementary school’s UIP, the federal and state expectation is that 72.05 percent of those students who took the TCAP (Transitional Colorado Assessment Program) in 2012-13 should be proficient or advanced in reading. However, only 67.43 percent were actually at that level. The number for math should have been at least 70.11 percent, but it was actually only 65.19. For writing it should have been 54.84 percent, but in reality it was only 45.23 percent.

In addition, the elementary school students are not growing as expected, with a Median Growth Percentile (MGP) of 43 in reading, 40 in math and 48 in writing. As well, the school is rated “Does Not Meet” in terms of the growth gaps between various at-risk groups.

“I would like to know what you think about the targets,” Dryburgh addressed Pagosa Springs Elementary School Principal Kate Lister directly, “and what you think about how much you can commit to having them accomplish this year?”

The target-setting portion of the elementary school’s UIP promises to meet the state expectations for all three content areas, both this year and next year.

“Well, I think we can commit to students’ learning and growing,” Lister responded, “and we can commit to targeting and seeing if that is, in fact, happening with data. Our DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) data, which is more standardized and doesn’t fluctuate, has remained strong, or the same; we haven’t dropped down. Our data from TCAP is the unstable data that we’re not feeling like it’s showing how well our students are learning and growing. We are trying to use data that is more stable and are investing in other types of assessment to make sure our kids are learning and growing.”

“Excuse me,” Dryburgh countered. “I really meant to ask a very simple question, but it obviously didn’t work out that way. This report was put together by the staff, the parents who were involved, etcetera. It says, for example, in reading currently sixty-seven percent of the students are proficient and our target for this year is to increase the number of students proficient in reading to seventy percent. My question is do you think that is a reasonable goal and do you think we are going to accomplish it?”

“My answer is we are required to put some data down and some points down,” Lister said. “Yes, we are trying to target that, but we are a little unsure about the test itself. We use three nationally normed tests, which are more stable than the TCAP.”

“I would have felt much better,” Dryburgh countered, “if somebody would have said, ‘No, I don’t think the performance targets are reasonable, and I don’t know if we are going to meet it or not.’”

In the end, Dryburgh reluctantly followed suit with the rest of the board in approving all four UIPs as written.

The elementary school’s UIP states, “Historically all tested areas have shown a positive trend line until 2012 as measured by TCAP. The 2013 data has shown a downward trend. Our Free and reduced Lunch population and ELL population were stable and now are decreasing as measured by TCAP.

“Math Achievement, Growth and Growth Gaps are in a decreasing trend as measured by TCAP. Our NWEA Spring Data for Second Grade was above the national average but one RIT point. Our Third Grade NWEA was 3 points lower than the national average. The Fourth Grade NWEA was three points lower than the national average. Growth was above the national average in all three grades.

“Reading Achievement, Growth and Growth Gaps are in a decreasing trend as measured by TCAP. Second Grade spring NWEA was one Rit point lower than the national average, Third Grade was two points lower than the national average, Fourth Grade was one point lower than the national average. All three grades exceeded the national average in growth.

“Writing has remained stable and approaching the state targets. Second Grade spring NWEA was one point above the national average, Third Grade was one point lower than the national average and Fourth Grade was one point above the national average. All three grade levels exceeded that national average for growth.”

It blames the low TCAP scores on a, “Lack of focused academic collaboration, weak pacing guides and lack of curriculum mapping. Instruction was based on new academic standards, while the TCAP assessed only 50% of the new standards.

As a strategy of improving reading scores, the UIP promises to, “Build stamina through ‘accountable’ SSR. Continue building intense primary and advanced phonics skills. Increase time in connected text with ‘Miles on the tongue.’ Increase time for reading as needed. Curriculum mapping and pacing guide using Colorado Academic Standards.”

As a strategy for improving math scores, the UIP promises to, “Continue with mastery of math facts. Increase practices with written response in math indicating problem solving strategies used. Curriculum mapping and pacing guide using Colorado Academic Standards.”

As a strategy of improving writing scores, the UIP promises, “Curriculum mapping and pacing guide using Colorado Academic Standards with writing. Teachers will use common rubrics with inter-rater reliability scoring.”

ed.fincher@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on January 16, 2014.