District begins work to improve report card grades

By Melanie Speicher - mspeicher@aimmedianetwork.com

SIDNEY — The report card grades have been reviewed and officials with the Sidney City Schools know they have work to do before the next report card is released.

“I want to give you an overview of changes to the report card, the report card itself and what steps we are taking as a district to make improvements,” began Brooke Gessler, director of curriculum for the district, during Monday night’s Board of Education meeting.

The district, said Gessler, is a dynamical system in which many different elements impact student learning. This year, the district is focusing on 11 elements of the system. These include the student’s daily schedule, standards, setting objectives, providing feedback, professional learning, learning strategies, staff utilization, teacher collaboration, time, course offerings and the Ohio Improvement Process which has the District Leadership Team, Building Leadership Team and Teacher Based Team.

Changes for the 2015-16 report card include a Prepared for Success grade (there was no grade on last year’s report card); higher expectations from the Ohio Department of Education; new tests for English/Language Arts and math; different indicators; and higher benchmarks.

All school districts, said Gessler, are in a transition period with the new Every Student Succeeds Art (ESSA), which is taking the place of No Child Left Behind.

“Possible changes to the report card we may see in the future include having a non-academic piece that could be something relative to student engagement and climate,” said Gessler.

The grades in Achievement, Gap Closing, K-3 Literacy, Graduation, Progress and Prepared for Success are “nothing to write home about,” said Gessler. “There were high expectations for these grades.”

The district received a “F” grade in Achievement, Gap closing and K-3 Literacy; “C” grades in Progress and Graduation Rate; and a “D” in Prepared for Success.

Achievement addresses the students who were proficient on the state and student performance portion of the report card.

“Remember that in looking at Achievement, it is important to look upon this with fresh eyes, for the tests for ELA and math changed,” said Gessler. “The state sets the percentage for the student proficiency target, which ranged from 68 percents of students needing to hit proficient to 78 percent of students needing to hit proficient across the various grade levels and tests.

“Our students tested this year will be measured by an 80 percent benchmark next year, so 80 percent of our students will need to be proficient in these tested areas for us to hit our indicators,” she said.

To address the need to increase the proficiency of the students in Achievement, the district has revised its goals for the year.

“Our district goal and annual goal target have been revised in order to narrow our focus: grade-level proficiency vs. the previously written making gains,” said Gessler.

The district’s goal by the end of the 2017-18 school year is for students in all groups and in all K-12 instructional settings make at least a 10 percent gain toward grade-level proficiency. The annual goal target states by the end of the 2016-17 school year, students in all groups and in all K-12 instructional settings will make at least a 5 percent gain toward grade-level proficiency.

Gap Closing addresses all students performance in reading, math and graduation regardless of income, race, ethnicity and disability.

“We earn points by hitting the annual measurable objectives (AMO), improving our percentage of proficient students from one year to the next,” said Gessler.

In 2017, said Gessler, AMOs will likely increase and districts will be looking at a 2017 Reading AMO of 77.1 percent; 2017 Math AMO of 72.1percent; and 2017 Graduation AMO of 85.1 percent.

“There are also things to consider on the Gap Closing which includes 20 percent of our students are on an IEP and 60 percent of our students are economically disadvantaged,” said Superintendent John Scheu. “We have to do a better job of closing the gaps.”

K-3 Literacy addresses the struggling readers in grades K-3. the goal is to get all students reading a grade level by the third grade.

In Sidney City Schools, 61 kindergarten students are not on-track for their reading level; while 41 first-graders; 84 second-graders; and 89 third-graders are not on track. The goal is to move struggling readers from not on-track to on-track from one year to the next year, said Gessler.

“We use AIMS Web locally and are piloting another diagnostic, NWEA MAP in grades K-8, hitting, kindergarten, first, third, fifth, seventh and eighth,” said Gessler. “In order to get students reading and working at and beyond grade level, we need to know what standards are strengths and stretches in order to guide our instruction.”

K-2, she said, focuses on reading, while third-grade focuses on reading and writing.

“We need to determine if writing needs to be introduced earlier,” said Gessler.

Gessler said parents of students in K-3 who are not on track will see their child’s progress in literacy during the first parent-teacher conference of the school year.

“Our second grade numbers are going up and we’re not sure why,” said Gessler. “The literacy looks at the fall of one year to the fall of the next year.”

The summer slide, where students forget some of what they learned during summer vacation, is real, said Gessler.

“It makes more sense to test the students from the fall to the spring of the same year,” she said.

And the teachers are challenged when new students move into the district, she said.

“If a student moves into the district with no data, we have 30 days to do the testing,” said Gessler.

The district has a spread sheet of the students work, which is shared with the principals. This information is also sent to the state department of education so they know what is going on with each student.

The Progress component of the report card looks at how much each student learns in a year, with the goal being at least a year’s worth of progress.

“Progress looks at students’s gains relative to students in their grade and based on three different data points taken from past tests,” said Gessler. “This year needs to be looked at as a fresh start because of the tests changing.”

A “C” is expected growth, said Gessler. This means the growth is maintained which is good. When students fail to maintain the “C” growth then that means the students are falling too many standard errors below the growth standard for their group of students.

“We are not sustaining the level where we were at last year,” said Gessler. “So we have to ask ourselves, are we challenging the students enough that when they take the tests are they improving?”

The Graduation grade is based on the 2014 and 2013 graduates. Students are placed in cohorts of four-year and five-year graduates.

“We had 47 students in the four-year group who didn’t graduate,” said Gessler. “Of those, four withdrew from the district, 31 dropped out, eight didn’t have enough credits and four deferred their diplomas.”

Those deferring their diplomas, said Gessler, were students with disabilities.

Prepared for Success addresses the question of whether students who graduate are prepared for college or a career. This was the first year this was a graded component.

“We need to raise the awareness of ACT and what the implications these results have for students, even if college is not on the horizon,” said Gessler. “We also have to make connections to courses and careers for our kids.”

Gessler said the district is focusing its attention on improving the report card grades.

“We are going to have K-5 grade level monthly meetings. The TBS, BLTs and DLT is focused on the district strategy with an organized schedule for data collection.”

A data day is planned for Nov. 4 after the parent teacher conferences for the building principals can go over the report cards with their teachers.

There will also be scheduled times to provide additional support for students. The K-5 buildings are building time in for intervention and enrichment. Sidney Middle School is implementing math courses to support more application of standards. Sidney High School will start credit recovery sooner in the school year to address deficiencies, will have SHS summer credit and the SHS 2017-18 schedule will have more equity to a quality education.

A team of DLT members will do an equity audit to make sure all students can gain equitable access to a quality education.

Professional learning for the teachers will come during early releases at which time the teachers will focus on the assessment of literacy, writing an universal design for learning.

Gessler concluded her presentation by talking about what is needed to improve the report card grades. More time for K-12 collaboration is needed to:

• Include all K-12 teachers, including unified arts, EL and intervention specialist teachers, in grade-level meetings.

• Facilitate vertical grade-level meetings to find gaps in standards.

• Continue to support professional learning in assessment literacy, writing and universal design for learning.

• Build internal capacity for teacher-leaders to facilitate collaboration.

“The report card has forced us to look at what we’re doing and make some hard decisions to improve our district,” said Gessler.

The board’s next meeting will be Monday, Nov. 7, at 6 p.m. at the board of education office.

By Melanie Speicher


Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.