Moffat County School District seeks to improve student performance
December 6, 2016
Craig — Student achievement and growth scores from the 2015-16 school year were reviewed by Moffat County School District and used to develop a comprehensive plan to improve student performance. The plan was put into action in October.
The four areas identified for targeted improvement included: changes to strategies for teaching reading, assessment training, ongoing data dives, changes to the assessment schedule and new support for high school students taking SAT tests.
The district will continue to ensure that lesson design is aligned with state standards, to use assessment matrices for ongoing evaluation of student performance, to focus on non-fiction writing and to have six- to eight-week blocks of instruction.
Two months after the plan was initiated, Superintendent Dave Ulrich and Director of Curriculum and Educator Effectiveness Zack Allen are positive progress is being made.
"I have been very pleased by the response from the principals and the teachers," Ulrich said.
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Improving the way reading is taught
"We do not have a uniform approach to how we teach reading in our elementary schools," Ulrich said. "One of the things that will be a priority for me is to work with relevant groups of folks to attack this; we want to see better results."
To achieve this goal school district faculty have been engaged in elementary reading foundations training provided at no cost by the Colorado Department of Education.
"Teaching reading is rocket science, and teachers need the resources and support to do this well," Ulrich said, paraphrasing Tracy Handy of the Office of Literacy at the department of education.
Handy will visit the district seven times each semester for teacher training.
"In fact, we have Tracy Handy, the reading trainer, in district Wednesday and Thursday for focused training," Ulrich said.
There are four goals training: for district faculty to become experts in reading; to know the principles of best practice and give timely and effective feedback; to know what good planning looks like; and to better evaluate current resources, Allen said.
"We have some work to be done on the assessment framework and that is not unexpected, so we need to continue working," Allen said.
Progress also being made in other areas
Helping teachers to create better assessment was another area for improvement.
Principals and instructional coaches for all grades, kindergarten through 12th-grade, are undergoing training to learn how to write assessments that align to the standards and to ensure they meet the rigor of state assessments, Allen said.
Principals are responsible for monitoring the data resulting from learning assessments throughout the year.
"I think it's been positive," Allen said. "When you put pressure on the system, some things come to light and the vast majority are positive in helping to create that alignment."
Students should also benefit from a new spring testing schedule.
Last year the state assessment schedule overlapped with the Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing.
This year students will be taking the NWEA MAP testing in mid-February and while the testing window for state assessments remains late March to early April.
"The overlapping test schedule was moved to produce less testing fatigue and more time to put the data to use," Allen said.
Another new measure is to provide focused help to high school students undertaking SAT testing — used to apply to colleges and universities. They will be encouraged to take advanced placement (AP) and/or concurrent enrollment. Juniors will be engaged in specific SAT preparatory opportunities.
"The better they do the more doors are opened for our students post secondary school, the greater their choices are," Ulrich said.
School board to review district's progress
Ulrich has instituted a program he calls "from the boardroom to the classroom" a series of presentations and classroom visits to demonstrate strategies used by principals and teachers to show what they are doing to help students perform better.
The board is interested in feedback from students after testing has concluded, and Ulrich believes that including student feedback is a reasonable request.
"We should begin to get a feel for the growth of our students by the end of February. Work right now is classroom driven," Ulrich said. "In late February MAP testing will provide a district benchmark. We will begin to draw some conclusions on the growth of our kids and give teachers and principals the data they need to go into the high stakes testing season."