Ways to make, and improve, the grade

By on October 2, 2009

by Ben Draper
KANELAND—Picking three to four goals to improve upon each year sounds like an over-ambitious New Years resolution. But it is commonplace for area schools.

Every year, each school in the Kaneland School District submits a School Improvement Plan (SIP) for the current school year.

District Curriculum Director Sarah Mumm presented a summary of the district school’s goals for the 2009-10 school year—ranging from three to four per building—to the School Board at Monday’s meeting at Harter Middle School.

“The interesting part is it is a struggle to get it to three to four goals,” Mumm said. “We could have 12.”

With the help of an administrative team consisting of staff and administration, each building completed a 62-page plan to improve areas of need for that specific school—however only a summary of the final goals was needed for approval by the School Board.

A discussion emerged after a brief presentation between School Board members and Mumm to the theme of universal goals versus school-specific goals.

For example, Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School has three goals for the 2009-10 school year that are not the same for Kaneland McDole Elementary School for the same time period.

Mumm explained that the strengths of each school lay in the students, but also with the educators. Some schools may be ahead of others in reading but behind in math, and vice versa.

“The difference is that we start at such different starting points,” said Mumm. “We really wanted to push this year … looking at multiple data sources and determining what’s best for your student population, knowing each individual building has a different population.”

Mumm added that the renewed focus began in the previous school year.

Mumm pointed out that universal, academic and curriculum-based goals are already present in the district.

“We really wanted the buildings to do an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses,” Mumm said. “Some found that they may have a weakness in collaborative efforts … some that they really need some writing help; the building down the street does not need writing help—they actually have a strength there—but they need help with communication.”

Board member Deborah Grant wanted to make sure that just because a school didn’t address a certain area for improvement, that it did not neglect that area.

“As a board member now, I see that each school has a focus, but as a parent I may not know (by looking at the summary) that we are OK in writing or reading,” Grant said. “And just because you are OK, if I don’t have a son or daughter that isn’t meeting, I still want some-one knowing that this is a goal.”

School Board member Diane Piazza asked that in the future, in addition to the SIP summary, that the district include each building’s strengths and weaknesses.

“We have four elementary schools, and at the board level, I would want to be sure that every student, no matter which building, is experiencing the same strides and pushes for academic improvement,” Piazza said. “It gets difficult with a summary, because we don’t have, right at the same time, what are those individual strengths and weaknesses, and this is why it makes such sense for this particular building not to have a particular academic goal and for this one to (have it).”

Mumm said that through the curriculum map, the district provides a consistent education across all buildings, although it can be difficult to implement a district-wide goal due to the difficulty to create a consistent environment for students in the different locations. She used a hypothetical goal of improving writing to explain her position.

“We can’t set a standard student achievement goal because you have some strengths and weaknesses within teachers and within staff,” Mumm said. “All staff is monitoring student progress diligently on our curriculum maps, but some staff have a strength in teaching writing, and other staff don’t. So to write that overall goal that everyone will push forth in writing, that is not going to stretch a school that already has strong writing teachers. It isn’t going to assist them to write a writing goal, where it may in another building.”

Mumm also said the district completed a District Improvement Plan in the 2008-09 school year.

“Just because these are three SIP goals for X school, it absolutely does not mean it is all we focus on—they focus on daily instruction,” said Mumm.

The summary plan was approved by the School Board 7-0.

2009-10 School Improvement Plans for each Kaneland school
These plans were put together by staff and administration from each building
For more information on the 2009-10 SIP plans, visit iirc.niu.edu.

High School
• Juniors improve ACT math composite score from 20.6 to 22
• Juniors improve ACT writing test score from 7 to average of 9
• Juniors improve performance on both applied math and reading for Information WorkKeys assessments, from an average of 5 to an average of 6
• Standardized, pre- and post-local assessments implemented in every course by the beginning of the second semester, and at least three standardized, formative assessments implemented in every course by beginning of fourth term

Middle School
• All students complete a common, local assessment based on objectives mandatory for the level’s curriculum
• Increase systematic support opportunities from zero to 80
• Successfully implement tier two interventions, improving the student achievement of at least 45 students.

Kaneland John Stewart
• The number of common team discussions focusing on student learning experiences will increase from 0-1, to 2-3 per month. Staff will increase attendance at these meetings
• 85 percent of students participating in tier two intervention throughout the year will have completed that intervention cycle
• 85 percent of student writing responses will exhibit grade-level objectives each quarter

Kaneland Blackberry Creek
• All grade levels, specials and support teams will have participated in a minimum of nine team-level meetings and nine school meetings that focus on student learning
• 85 percent of students identified as needing tier two reading assistance will have successfully completed an intervention cycle by end of year
• 100 percent of teachers in grades 2-5 will provide targeted activities to promote self-selected reading, improving that area in students by 20 percent

Kaneland John Shields
• 82 percent of all students will read at or above grade level
• Define, implement and reflect on the expectations, components and structure of the Writer’s Workshop process to improve student learning and create a collaborative culture by engaging in discussion six or more times during the school year
• Identify and implement three or more writing rubrics, per grade level

Kaneland McDole
• Use established rubric and probes to develop grade-level baselines for measuring student improvement of comprehension skills on the reading extended response for the purpose of facilitating student learning
• Increase awareness of school-wide behavioral expectations to promote a safe and positive learning community
• Maintain community awareness of student successes at McDole with monthly communication with district, parents and local community