Archive for Thursday, January 18, 2007

Board hears plan for assessments

January 18, 2007

After earning nine standards of excellence on the state's 2006 assessment tests, students and faculty at Eudora USD 491 aren't slowing down.

The Eudora board of education heard detailed plans last Thursday of what it's going to take to keep the momentum rolling.

Normally, the board hears the same presentation in the first semester. This year, the presentation hit a delay because students took all new tests and results weren't final until December, assistant superintendent and curriculum coordinator Don Grosdidier said.

The new tests also made it impossible to compare the 2006 test scores to the scores from 2005, he said.

"The bar keeps rising every year," Grosdidier said.

Each student must exhibit adequate yearly academic progress as part of the mandated No Child Left Behind policy.

As a whole district, 86.2 percent of the students met the state standard and above in reading and 84.5 percent did the same in math. Both exceeded the state average by more than 7 percent.

Because of growth, the district has also seen the rise of subgroups.

The state pays special attention to the groups, which become statistically significant if more than 30 students share a similar trait. Grosdidier offered the examples of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, have disabilities or take part in the district's English Language Learners (students who study English as a second language.)

After Grosdidier familiarized the board with the basics of the 2006 scores, he let each building principal present the specifics.

Eudora High School

Eudora High School Principal Dale Sample began by confirming the school's graduation rate from last year, which topped out at 97.5 percent.

Sample said the percentage was very good.

The high school students also showed well on the state tests, he said.

"Basically I can tell you in reading we're doing a pretty good job," Sample said.

As a school, 87.6 percent of the students met the state standard or above in reading and 85.2 in math.

"This year the tests statewide as far as the high schools were concerned were much tougher," Sample said. "It makes us feel really good about our numbers in math."

There were no major subgroups identified within the high school.

The high school is relying on similar tools as years past to increase the scores next year.

One tactic gives teachers increased collaboration time to work on lesson plans that hit problem areas, he said.

Incoming freshmen have the opportunity to get grounded in the school early with a freshman orientation class, Sample said.

The district also employs student improvement teams to help students with specific problems, he said.

Teachers also offer students incentives like reduced finals for students who score well, Sample said.

"Keep up the good work," board member Kenny Massey said.

Eudora Middle School

The number of Eudora Middle School students achieving progress in reading and math exceeded the state average. The school also had to work extensively with certain subgroups, Principal Rich Proffitt said.

"We do have one of those testing years where we're going to have a high number of kids with disabilities," Proffitt said.

As a whole, 87.8 percent of the students met standard or above in reading and 82.5 percent met the state standard or above in math.

"When you look at the graph as a bell, we're very top heavy," Proffitt said.

Faculty at the school delved into the test results when they arrived last month, especially in math, to isolate the strengths and weaknesses of the students, Proffitt said.

"They got a real good picture of why they are performing the way they are," Proffitt said. "They have a road map on how they are going to improve that."

To improve last year's scores, EMS is using similar tools to the high school.

The faculty uses student improvement teams to tackle individual needs.

Teachers at EMS also look to improve themselves as a way to improve their students.

Throughout the school year, EMS students get an early release so teachers can work on professional development exercises, Proffitt said.

In addition to the student improvement teams, students have the opportunity to improve their skills by taking part in both reading and math lab classes, Proffitt said.

Eudora West Elementary

Last year marked the first time third-graders were tested in both reading and math on the assessments. It was also the first time most of the students ever took a computer-based test, principal Jan Irby said.

"That's a big step for a 9-year-old," Irby said.

Overall, West also exceeded the state standard of progress in both reading and math.

In reading, 83.8 percent of the students met the state criteria and in math 86.4.

Although West met the state's overall requirements, Irby said there was room for improvement.

After looking through the testing data, the faculty identified concepts troubling the students.

Among the problem areas this semester, teachers will focus on teaching students to be better at paraphrasing, separating opinion from fact and word problems, Irby said.

The faculty will also continue to hold small reading groups and use the tactile-intensive touch math methodology to boost math scores.

Nottingham Elementary

Principal Jim Lauer presented the board with results from the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

"It's such a team effort and our kids really scored well," Lauer said.

Although students wouldn't be taking the state assessments until next year, teachers at Nottingham prepare students with small reading and math groups.

"We just don't leave anyone behind, Lauer said.

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