Data gathered recently by a Kansas Learning Network team’s visit to Iola schools will be used to develop an improvement plan for the district, board members were told Monday night.
The district was put on improvement following the 2008-09 school year because its graduation rate for special education students was 55 percent. The standard is 75 percent. Math deficiencies for those students were responsible.
Overall, USD 257 schools exceeded standards in math at 82.7 percent and in reading at 85.3 percent, said Dr. Craig Neuenswander, superintendent of schools. “All schools also made AYP,” he said.
The KLN team found a mix of positives and negatives, the board was told. The biggest problem was inconsistency in curriculum and its delivery — both within schools and across the district. Problems were also noted with inclusion of special education students.
Among positives was having two instructional coaches — a result of efforts to keep teachers on staff after closing LaHarpe Elementary School, regular curriculum discussions, the district’s everyday math program and having instruction guided by state assessments.
Current methods to track student progress through state assessments, including reading at lower grades, is helpful, the team said. But more staff development and determining curriculum and instructional needs is required, they noted.
“It’s time we raised the bar and look at making progress in more than state assessments,” Neuenswander said. Developing an improvement plan will take about six months, he added.
GAIL DUNBAR, curriculum director, gave board members an overview of Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS). Title I teachers test kindergarten through third graders in reading analysis using DIBELS.
The tests are standardized and start with phonology, the use of sounds to form words, such as breaking down a word like dog into the sounds of its three letters. Oral and nonsense word fluency are other components measured in the testing, which occurs at the first of the year, again near the semester break and finally in the spring.
There is a set goal of words per minute at every grade level, Dunbar noted.
The benchmark level for first graders is 40 words per minute; in second grade, students should be able to read aloud 90 words per minute. Third grade levels are 110.
“Our median score is within that range, but it would be nice if it were a little higher,” Dunbar told the Register.
Test results have prompted faculty and staff to give more attention to that area.