School Improvement plans revealed at Sherrard schools

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter

Representatives from each of the Sherrard district schools spoke to the school board at the Feb. 11, 2009 meeting about what the schools were doing to improve student learning and district test scores.

Coyne Center

Jill Petrie, Coyne Center's early childhood education preschool coordinator, said that all the children in her building were screened in August identifying students with speech or learning needs. The staff developed strategies for the classrooms and a language support group was started as well as a speech improvement class.

Staff members chart the students' progress and in December the identified students were re-screened, as well as some additional students identified for needing services.

"In March we will re-screen everybody," she said.

Coyne Center has four classrooms with 20 students in each plus there are an additional 12 students in early childhood classes. She said there were 52 students in the morning classes and 44 in the afternoon.

Winola

Kathryn Swanson spoke about the professional development at Winola. "Response to Intervention (RtI) is taking place in all of our classrooms, except the second grade," she said.

She said the teachers are organizing appropriate data for each grade level. She suggested that the district needs to have a district-wide training on RtI.

Second grade teacher Carrie Dunley said students work in "small group discussions, which seem to be working in the grade school."

LeAnn Pulse, fourth grade teacher, talked about ISAT and Stanford tests given and how the students scored. "Overall, the elementary scores looked solid," she said.

She said one area that needs to be worked on is higher-level reading comprehension skills. "We need to look at ways to improve that," she said.

Melonie Flickinger, second grade teacher, also pointed to the need to improve on reading and the extended response. She said an afternoon group gets together to look at the ISAT scores. There are strengths in students who meet or exceed in the tests and concerns over those who don't.

Teachers are looking at how to approach students in the younger grades so they can increase their higher-level reading and comprehension skills.

One way teachers have tried connecting with students is by taking a reading lesson and having the student relate it to something in their own life. "We do things more orally in lower grades," she said.

Board member Larry Stone said there are fast ways for school districts to count the number of towels or miles that a bus has traveled, but when it comes to transmitting information about students to other teachers "there is the privacy issue," he said, but "there are ways to get to every kid."

Winola principal Tony Ryan said it was important to transmit information about student strategies. "If something is working, we want to make sure that intervention goes with the student," he said.

Sherrard Elementary

Sue Keeney, principal at Sherrard Elementary, said that professional development is ongoing at the school.

Debby Allen, third grade teacher, said teachers have held discussions about RtI. "We all had different ideas on what RtI is," she said. Many of the teachers automatically do interventions for students to help the students with learning concepts. "If you document it, you can see a trend," she said.

"Most of us were doing a lot of Tier 3 interventions," she added.

In analyzing the scores they saw an area of needs in reading. "Higher level thinking skills were lacking," she said. Skills that were in need of improvement included making inferences and sequencing.

She also saw the technique of improving extended response for students by taking things that are known and having the students apply it to their own lives.

Kindergarten teacher Brenda Secor said she wanted to figure out "why we are weak in some areas and what is going on in our teaching?"

Secor asked, "What are effective kindergarten strategies?"

She said she was interested in following the criteria for RtI, following the steps and documenting the progress.

Sherrard Elementary has five sections in fourth grade and six sections in third.

Sometimes a strategy is "kid specific," Superintendent Rebecca Rodocker said. "All teachers want autonomy to do their own thing, but consistency is important too."

Kim Hoffman, director of educational services, explained that within the next two to three years the schools will have a paradigm.

Now the district is trying to discover what are its weaknesses, where is the core strategy lacking, she said.

Matherville Intermediate

Jacob Smithers, sixth grade teacher, told the board the teachers at Matherville worked with the "at risk" students using Project Read and had lessons with Jill Bennin last year.

In 2008-2009 DIBELS and ISAT data was analyzed. There are 15-16 students selected using Tier 1 - Tier 3 strategies. "Once every two weeks they meet with Jill Bennin," he said.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays there is a half-hour intervention after lunch for every group. Teachers also hold weekly meetings working on power standards.

Teachers have discussed the benefits and disadvantages of students using calculators.

Junior high

Sherrard Junior High principal Brad Oates told the board that Matherville had held three in-services on RtI “to get us up to speed to have a clear understanding of what we are doing.”

He said the teachers “kind of understand this, but what now?”

Data is being analyzed, including results from the Maze test, which tests reading fluency. “That test will be given again in April to the beginning of May,” he said.

He said the ISAT data is also being examined and disaggregated to see what the test results are saying. “We're spending an enormous amount of time looking at that data.” In addition, a literacy workshop was held.

“We had some serious looks at the problem solving process with the students,” said Oates.

He said he looks to bring about more systematic changes for the teachers.

Senior high

Sherrard High School Principal Garet Egel introduced Mary Ann Capan, media specialist, who told the board the high school was at the introductory level for RtI. “RtI at the secondary level is different than at the elementary,” she said. She said three SHS teachers had attended some professional development classes, specifically dealing with “how to write test questions and how to interpret responses.”

Freshmen were tested on vocabulary and comprehension. In addition there are pod-casts available on RtI at the secondary level. Teachers are being “trained to meet the needs of students in “tier 2.”

Tier 2 students comprise around 20 percent of the students and literacy supplemental instruction is based on individual needs, up to 60 minutes a day.

Egel said that information from testing is being compiled and will be presented to the staff “hopefully within the next month.”

“Once the data is presented to the staff they will see some very serious areas that need to be looked at,” he said.