Sandrock Elementary School Principal Kamisha Siminoe said she feels optimistic.
“Oh, absolutely,” Siminoe said. “When I look at the staff that comes together at Sandrock, I am overwhelmed by the level of passion and dedication that these people have for kids and the work they do for them.”
That work, however, has come under scrutiny in recent months, beginning with Colorado Student Assessment Program scores released in August, and continuing with the Colorado Department of Education’s publication of the 2010 Performance Framework Reports on its website, www.schoolview.org.
According to the Department of Education, Sandrock scored 25.1 percent on tests in 2010.
The school is relatively new.
It was transformed from Craig Intermediate School to Sandrock as part of the Moffat County School District’s reconfiguration.
It opened its doors to elementary school students for the 2009-10 school year.
That initial year was the subject of a report by Siminoe during a Moffat County School Board work session Thursday night.
Due to low scores, the school is required to submit a priority improvement plan to the Department of Education. All schools within Colorado are required to submit yearly plans, regardless of scores.
However, schools that score lower must submit improvement plans earlier in the year, so the plans can be reviewed by the department.
Sandrock, along with other priority improvement schools throughout the state, was required to submit a draft plan Jan. 17.
Siminoe said her draft priority improvement plan will be reviewed by the department and returned to Sandrock with any revisions by March 4.
Sandrock will then incorporate changes and return the final plan by March 30.
Final improvement plans for all schools in Colorado will be published at www.schoolview.org by April 15 for public viewing.
The improvement plans are written around four components, according to the Department of Education.
First, schools are required to gather and organize relevant data, like test scores. Next, schools must analyze trends in the data to identify needs and priorities. Third, schools must determine the root causes for those needs.
The fourth component is called a data narrative, which combines the trend analysis, root causes, and a verification of the root causes.
Siminoe’s report Thursday centered around the draft narrative she submitted to the department.
“The data narrative, of course, is just that overall story, pulling all the parts of the unified plan together,” she said. “They should be able to look through this and get the crux of what’s going on without flipping back and forth between 25 or 50 pages of information.”
Trends, priority needs
Siminoe said the school’s recent transformation was a worthy discussion point in the data narrative.
“I just basically said, ‘Here’s how Sandrock Elementary came to be because I think that’s an important piece for (the Department of Education),” she said.
Siminoe said the reconfiguration changed the school’s demographics by introducing student populations that traditionally perform lower on tests.
Those groups include English Language Learners, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.
“We have some high-needs areas for our kiddoes at Sandrock. So, we put that out there and talked a little about that,” Siminoe said of the plan.
Another point, Siminoe said, involved targets.
“Then I talked about missed targets,” she said. “I talked about reading, math and writing. And in all three, we sat significantly below the state average in reading, writing and math.”
Siminoe described the school’s greatest challenges in two areas.
In reading, Sandrock students had the most difficulty with vocabulary and determining the main idea. In math, students struggled with number signs and computation.
Siminoe also said the narrative included the school’s 2010 CSAP scores.
Siminoe said Sandrock’s first year was challenging.
“We got caught up in the processes of just mere operations of trying to get up and running and functioning as a school,” she said. “So, we really didn’t utilize (data), and I addressed that (in the draft narrative).”
According to the draft, “Data was not collected with fidelity nor consistently used to drive instructional decisions.”
Siminoe said the staff began reviewing data in August 2010, particularly during collaborative time.
“Now we have that time and we’re utilizing it well,” she said.
Another root cause deals with alignment, according to the draft.
“Classroom instruction did not consistently align with the standards,” the draft states.
A third factor deals with identifying students with special needs.
“Sandrock did not have a clearly defined method of identifying students who are in Tier I, Tier II or Tier III,” according to the draft.
Siminoe explained that Tier I students comprise the general population.
“Tier II are those kids who need a little bit more support,” she said. “And Tier III are our severe kiddoes who just really need as much support as we can possibly give them.”
Siminoe said the lack of identification had an impact on scores.
“Because we didn’t have a real clearly defined method of identifying those kids, the effectiveness of our program was weak,” Siminoe said. “The students who needed those intensive interventions weren’t getting that.”
Siminoe said Sandrock has made changes to improve scores.
“We no longer have our highest-risk kiddoes with the least-trained staff,” she said. “We are really trying to utilize the trained staff that we have. Not that paraprofessionals aren’t highly trained, but the most highly-trained professional is the teacher.
“So, the teacher is the one who needs to be with our highest-risk kiddoes.”
Verification of causes
The draft narrative lists various tests Sandrock used when reviewing student data, including “common assessments.”
Siminoe said the tests are used as instructional tools for teachers.
“So, we’re trying to pull all those pieces together so we know where our students are, and how well they’re doing, and then we can adjust things,” she said. “We can adjust the intervention pieces as needed. Teachers can also adjust their instructional practices and what they’re doing when teaching those kids.”
Board member Sandie Johns asked if Sandrock has adequate resources.
“Do we have enough people to adjust interventions as they should be?” Johns asked.
Siminoe said the school doesn’t.
“In the perfect world? No,” she said. “I mean, we’ve made it work with the people that we have.”
Johns asked if teachers felt overwhelmed.
“I don’t know if ‘overwhelmed’ is the right word,” Siminoe said. “We could definitely benefit from more people.
“It’s just like anything — we can do a better job of things in smaller groups.”
Board member Trish Snyder asked if teacher collaborative time was helpful.
“Most definitely,” Siminoe said.
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