School district uses test data to adapt teaching
Fairfield school district administrators acknowledged plenty of data is collected and studied from student standardized tests and other assessments and efforts are ongoing to use the data to make changes.
“Our goal this year has been to act upon data,” Curriculum Director Marci Dunlap told the school board Monday. “We compile a lot of data and look at it, but we want to be able to use the data and what it tells us to improve education and learning.”
She handed out graphs of district students’ scores from standardized tests in reading, science and math.
“For instance, we see a gap in reading scores between the all-students group and the low social economic status group. We need to develop an action plan to close the gap,” said Dunlap.
Superintendent Art Sathoff said administrators were getting better at using data; the response to intervention tool teachers use is an efficient way to measure student learning and adapt the level of instruction for each student.
“Instruction is more prescribed for individual students,” said Pence Elementary Principal Chris Welch.
The district has implemented asking teachers to identify students scoring non-proficient in reading and math on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, then identify the concepts and skills missed and identify vocabulary within the subjects that correlate with deficit concepts/skills. Teachers were to use standards and benchmarks to sequence where the skills are currently taught and where they might need to be taught.
“‘We haven’t covered it yet,’ is no longer a viable excuse,” said Dunlap.
Teachers have several steps to cover in getting down to the nitty-gritty of the data charts, and are asked to review the test questions in which students scored significantly above and below the state average. Teachers are asked to consider: Is the skill covered in the curriculum prior to the test? Did students understand the vocabulary within the question? Is this a new or old skill for students? And was the question format new or confusing to students?
After finding the answers to these questions, teachers are expected to address areas of need and adapt lessons.
Another tool elementary students use is a computer program, Fast Math, for at least 10 minutes or more per day, said Mark Cremer, technology director.
“Fast Math is not a part of the regular math curriculum and should not diminish math instruction time in the classroom,” said Cremer. “This is a program that we’ve asked teachers to make room for in the day as a supplement to math curriculum.”
Cremer described the program as progressive; when students — who each sign-on with individual passwords — work on Fast Math the program recognizes the level of math complexity the student last mastered. The program starts where the student left off the previous day and continues.
“Students think they’re playing games because the program has cool things such as races,” said Welch. “But it’s teaching various math concepts and the program won’t let them advance until they can answer the questions and problems presented.”
Welch has developed a data sheet for each student, starting with math and reading.
“This is a one-page ‘report card’ about each student that will be handed to next year’s teacher before school begins,” said Welch. “When students walk in the classroom at the beginning of school, teachers will know where students were at when school let out for summer.”
The report includes goals and any accommodations and specific areas to note levels of mastery, such as in reading — concepts of print, phonological awareness, decoding and comprehension of fiction; in writing — ideas and content, word choice, organization, sentence fluency and conventions; and in math — number operations, algebra, geometry/measurement and data analysis.
Welch said this type of information helps teachers help students before nine to 12 weeks of school have passed before intervention begins.
“These show specific areas of a subject where a student struggles,” said Dunlap. “This is not to label or pre-judge, but for the teacher to be prepared and to make sure we have an action plan for each student.”
Various options will be offered for summer school in the district:
• Summer intervention programs in reading and math will be for selected students, K-8 that teachers have identified through specific criteria. Classes will be 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, July 15 to Aug. 9, at Fairfield Middle School.
Students K-5 will have reading Monday and Wednesday, math Tuesday and Thursday and enrichment classes on Fridays.
Middle school students, grades 6-8, will have student-selected content area, reading or math, Monday through Thursday and enrichment classes on Fridays.
“Since FMS is a School in Need of Assistance, we have to follow a prescribed protocol for summer classes for middle school students,” said Dunlap.
• Summer enrichment programs are open to all students, K-7. Students not enrolled in summer school intervention classes will pay a fee in order to pay instructor salaries and a minimal amount of materials.
Enrichment classes will focus on Iowa Core Universal Constructs for enhancement of critical thinking skills and offered based on the number of teachers’ proposals submitted.
Summer enrichment classes will be 8 a.m. to noon Fridays only for five weeks, beginning July 8 at the middle school.
• Math camp is available for students in grades 2-6, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday, June 10-28, at the middle school.
• FMS summer band is July 22 through Aug. 2.
Incoming sixth graders will rehearse 8-9:15 a.m.; incoming seventh and eighth graders will rehearse 9:45-11a.m. All rehearsals will be in the middle school band room. The two-week sessions cost $40.
Specifics about high school summer classes had not been finalized as of Monday’s school board meeting.
Dunlap said the district is still researching offering daycare to teachers’ children for teachers working in the summer school program.
In other business Monday, the school board:
• Modified the 2013-14 school calendar so the second set of Parent/Teacher Conferences occur one week later than originally planned. The new conference dates are Feb. 18 and Feb. 20.
• Approved a resolution for early school start date for 2013-14; students’ first day of class is Aug. 21, with 1:30 p.m. dismissal the first three days of classes.
• Approved the 2013-14 budget of $199,706 for Young House Family Services behavior program.
• Approved hiring for the 2013-14 school year: Heather Miller as school nurse; Justin Messer and Larissa Jones as Pence Elementary School teachers.
• Accepted the resignation/retirement of Teri Lewis, third-grade Pence teacher with 39 years in Fairfield Community School District.
• Approved transfer requests for Julie Hanshaw to Title I teaching at Libertyville and Washington elementary schools, and Billy Strickler from fourth grade teacher at Pence to fourth grade teacher at Washington.
• Approved elimination of a one-on-one associate position at FMS and the recommendation to end employment for Billy Mathis effective June 7, as there is not an appropriate position at FMS for him.
• Accepted the resignation of Curt Bjork as high school assistance wrestling coach.
Board president Jennifer Anderson told board members she would distribute evaluation forms and each member is to evaluate Sathoff, an annual board process.
“I’ll assemble your answers and we can do his evaluation in June,” she said.