Friday, December 2, 2016

Grandview’s only provisionally-accredited school feels sense of urgency

by Mary Wilson, Editor

As part of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP), the Grandview C-4 School District is required to develop an ongoing, written Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (CSIP), which directs the overall improvement of its education programs and services. The CSIP includes goals and strategies that direct the improvement efforts of the district for at least a five-year period.

One of the focus areas in the district’s CSIP is student achievement, including processes to develop and enhance quality educational/instructional programs to improve performance and enable students to meet their personal academic and career goals.  In accordance with this focus area, one of the action items states that each school site will utilize the School Improvement Process during teacher collaboration to identify goals, focus on adult learning to improve instruction, and monitor student achievement progress to inform instruction.

These plans have been developed by the school leadership teams and have incorporated feedback from site-based stakeholder groups.  On Thursday, November 17, Grandview Middle School presented their School Improvement Plan to the Board of Education. With the final Annual Performance Reports released last month, the district learned that GMS fell below the fully-accredited range (70% or higher), garnering 63.6% of possible points. In 2014, the school was considered accredited with distinction, with 94.3% of possible points earned.

“We are sticking out like a sore thumb as a provisionally-accredited school,” said Grandview Middle School Principal Jacqueline Spencer. “That is not who we want to be and we do have a sense of urgency with where we are right now.”

This year, GMS is focusing on culture, professional learning community processes, and reading and writing in all content areas.

“The numbers that we are seeing just do not reflect our students,” said Spencer. “Nor do they reflect our staff. We have a lot of work to do. It’s not our story, but these are the numbers that we have.”

The first goal is to increase achievement in English Language Arts (ELA) for all GMS students. An emphasis will be put on various writing types as well as increasing reading comprehension through close reading strategies and the implementation of a building incentive program.

“Our target this year is to have 50% of our students proficient (in ELA),” said Spencer. “That will mean moving approximately 22 additional students to the proficiency level. We think that we will be able to do that.”

The second goal is to increase GMS student achievement in math. This will include teaching multi-step problem solving, algebraic expression and fractions at the middle school level. Each area will be assessed through the district’s benchmarking process. While the school did see an increase in algebra scores, it does not reflect on GMS’s overall points because algebra is scored at the high school level.

“We have to help at least 65 more eighth-grade students become proficient math students,” said Spencer. “With two math classes, that is 32 students per teacher, or seven students per class. Drilling it down that far shows the teachers that we can do this, this is feasible.”

Spencer and her team have also broken down student achievement levels in math for seventh and sixth grade students. In seventh grade, at least 40 additional students will need to score proficient.
The third goal is to increase student achievement in science, emphasizing earth and space, physical, life, engineering, technology and application of science. GMS plans to increase the number of students scoring proficient and advanced by 5% or more and decrease the number of students scoring basic and below basic by 5% or more.  

“Our target goal for this year is 50% of our students scoring proficient in science,” said Spencer. “With 28% proficient last year, this would mean that we need to increase by 45 students.”

A focus will be on the number of students in remediation, or those students who simply don’t understand the concepts, as well as the number of students who are in mastery-level on testing.

“Once we have that picture, we can then drill-down on what the students need individually,” said Spencer. “We will now focus on how we get our instructional strategies so aligned to either accelerate our students or enrich our students. For those students that are in remediation, we’ll have to fill in the gaps.”

Reading, writing and vocabulary continue to remain at the forefront of instruction. Spencer and her administrative team will also work to increase attendance and decrease the number of discipline referrals by creating a positive school culture and climate and provide a safe learning environment where respect and responsibility are hallmarks of character. 

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