Viewpoint: Strategies being employed in response to new testing resultsWe know for many of our students the content we teach will be challenging but accessible. Students will need to work hard to learn the material, but we are confident they will ultimately experience success. Expectations are that students achieve at their highest levels.
By: Keith Jacobus, District 833 superintendent, South Washington County Bulletin
The Labor Day holiday officially brought summer vacation to a close. Although there is always some lament from our students regarding the beginning of the school year, District 833 staff can’t wait. Many employees have been working hard over the summer months and are excited to have our kids back and to begin another educational chapter in their lives.
We know for many of our students the content we teach will be challenging but accessible. Students will need to work hard to learn the material, but we are confident they will ultimately experience success. Expectations are that students achieve at their highest levels. In order to ensure student success, we offer a variety of interventions focused on supporting and enhancing our classroom instruction for those needing a little more help.
Within education schools develop what we call a “pyramid of interventions.” At the base of the pyramid are strategies and programs that we use with all students. As you move up the pyramid toward the apex, each level is focused on a more specific intervention strategy that is needed by a smaller number of students. At the top of the pyramid are the intervention strategies that are identified for students that have the greatest academic challenges. Having this in place prepares us for the latest state accountability data release.
Last week the Minnesota Department of Education released the Multiple Measures Rating (MMR) data for each school in the state. The MMR is a new method for reporting state assessment data. In the past only achievement data, or where students scored in relationship to the grade level standards was utilized to determine Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and report how a school was performing. The MMR uses the achievement data but also adds two growth measures and the high school graduation rate. The growth measures look at how well a school is doing in terms of helping students grow. The expectation would be that a student would make one year’s growth during each school year. The second growth data point is a measure of how fast a school is closing the achievement gap between the identified sub-group populations, for example special education, and the highest achieving group.
The new growth measures will help schools more clearly see where improvement is taking place. While the measures aren’t individualized for students, schools can understand which groups of students need to see changes in instruction. Those with high achievement scores, but low growth indicate changes are needed to accelerate growth so students don’t plateau or eventually fall behind. On the other hand, those groups with low achievement but high growth show their performance is accelerated so both achievement should improve, and achievement gaps will be reduced.
At each school the staff has been analyzing their data to determine school improvement goals and to refine the interventions used to help their students succeed. We will be working to individualize our interventions for students and to provide help for you as parents so that you can support your students at home. One of the difficult things I find as a parent is helping my kids with their homework. At times we are unsure how to explain a concept or help our kids with their assignments.
Fortunately, a number of online resources can help your family enhance learning and get homework help. First, many of our teachers will have web pages that contain information to help with homework and provide information to students and parents regarding projects or class requirements. External sites are also available. Examples include Khan Academy, Knowmia and iTunesU. The Khan Academy site, www.khanacademy.org, has thousands of lessons and various topics from math and science to test preparation. Knowmia, www.knowmia.com, contains lessons and short video clips. Apple’s iTunesU website has a number of courses and short video clips on many topics. Many colleges and university also have complete courses on-line that students can access.
The fall is always an exciting and optimistic time as we anticipate the beginning of a new school year. We understand the value of strong partnerships with parents and community members. I hope the resources shared here will support student learning at home as we work to ignite a passion for lifelong learning.
Jacobus is superintendent of South Washington County Schools.