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Student Achievement Discussed By Board of Education

By Staff | Nov 10, 2011

Student achievement and changes to a long-time assessment tool were discussed during the October meeting of the Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education.

“As you are aware, last year we became a School In Need of Assistance (SINA) at the Middle School as a result of the performance of the special education students in reading comprehension,” said Middle School/High School Principal Jay Jurrens. “I just wanted to provide an update of what we are doing to make sure that we are not on that list again.”

Jurrens shared the steps that the Emmetsburg Middle School staff has taken to address the issue.

Staff has been realigned to provide the most opportunity for students: two paraeducators were assigned to the reading classroom for grades 6-8, and a Reading teacher is available during study hall and homeroom to work with groups of students.

STAR Reading assessments have been expanded to include Enterprise Data: the assessments provide teachers with detailed information on what students know and don’t know.

Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) data has been analyzed and goals set: students’ ITBS scores (for those below or close to below proficiency in reading comprehension) were shared with parents during conferences.

Additional reading materials were purchased to allow students to read at their level: high interest/low reading level material motivate reluctant readers, and reading at their level allows students to progress quicker.

“In what grade do they start the STAR Reading assessment?” asked Karla Anderson, board member.

“We start it in Kindergarten, all the way through tenth grade to see their progress,” answered Jurrens.

Jurrens noted that it’s important to “not put everything on one test.” While taking a test, a student may have had an unusually bad or good day.

“You see all kinds of things, you see some kids test really high and then the next test they go down. You see some come in low, and then they get a big bounce up,” Jurrens said.

“It could be difficult to get off the SINA list,” said Anderson. “It’s not going to be an easy process for our staff.”

Jurrens agreed, “No doubt one of the most challenging things is to figure out what works for every kid because there’s nothing that works for all kids.”

“What test is it that determines whether or not we get off this list?” asked board member Tammy Naig.

“The Iowa Test of Basic Skills and those are taken in March,” Jurrens answered.

“So, we reach a certain proficiency with every child and that gets us off the list?” Naig wondered.

“Everyone has to be proficient for two years in a row. Even if we get to proficiency this year, we’ll still be on the watch list,” said Jurrens.

Board member Scott Kibbie asked what percentage of schools is included on the watch list.

Superintendent John Joynt answered, “Well over 300 school buildings are considered Schools In Need of Assistance and another 300 are on the watch list. There are probably 1,000 school buildings in the state of Iowa.”

Jurrens explained that, this year, the state has changed the Iowa Test of Basic Skills to the “Iowa Assessments.” The new test will be tied to the Iowa Core Curriculum and is supposed to measure how well schools are teaching the Iowa Core. Instead of using percentile ranks, the new test will give a standard score.

“It will allow us to look at different assessments and apply the same score, so we have a comparison,” said Jurrens. “It will let us look at students from year to year to see how much they have grown.”