Schools showing progressPublished 9:08am Tuesday, September 22, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
Dowagiac Union School District made AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) as a district in English language arts and math, the Board of Education heard Monday night at the middle school from Assistant Superintendent Patti Brallier.
Individual building status in regard to AYP was also reviewed with the school board:
• Justus Gage Elementary School, grades 3-5 tested, B grade for 2008-2009, met AYP.
• Kincheloe Elementary School, grades 3-5 tested, B grade, met AYP.
• Patrick Hamilton Elementary School, grades 3-5 tested, C grade, met AYP.
• Sister Lakes Elementary School, grades 3-5 tested, B grade, met AYP.
• Dowagiac Middle School, grades 6-8 tested, B grade, met AYP.
• Union High School, 11th grade tested, B grade, met AYP.
Report card letter grades are based 33 percent on 40 performance indicators, 33 percent on achievement growth and 34 percent on achievement change.
Of 3,671 Michigan schools in 2008-2009, 3,143, or 86 percent, made AYP, while 528, or 14 percent, did not.
“There are two types of AYP,” Brallier said. “First there’s the district AYP. The district made AYP. We made AYP in our elementary. We made AYP in our middle school. The high school is combined with Pathfinders alternative ed, which has high school students. We come up with a blended figure and the high school did not make AYP based upon that blended graduation rate.”
Of 791 Michigan high schools, 587 met the AYP target of 80 percent graduation rates and 204 did not.
The percent of schools with graduation rates below 80 percent was 25.8 percent.
Likening the data to peeling back the layers of an onion, Brallier said, “Each of our buildings met AYP, including the high school. Pathfinders alternative ed did not have enough students to get considered for a grade.”
Strategies to lower 10.27% dropout rate
Brallier and DUHS Principal Paul Hartsig reported on graduation and drop-out rates.
“Our district has two distinct high schools,” Hartsig said. “Dowagiac Union High School and Pathfinders.There are two ways to get done in a four-year cohort. If you started as a freshman in 2005, we have to account for any student who started with us but didn’t graduate. They could have gone to another school, they could have gone to another state, they could have dropped out. In 2007, the first year they started this cohort, 84.29 percent graduated, with 5.71 percent dropout rate. They don’t add up to 100 because there is a third category due to the third part of the equation, which is the off track rate. These are students who did not drop out, but did not graduate with their four-year cohort. These students generally finish up during the summer or come back for part of a fifth year.”
The fifth-year cohort raises the district graduation rate to 91.18 percent.
In 2008, Dowagiac’s four-year cohort stood at 86.99 percent, with a 10.27-percent dropout rate. Fifth-year data is not yet available.
The 10.27-percent figure “seems very high to me,” Hartsig advised the school board. “If they tell us they’re going to Eau Claire or a different school, but they don’t enroll there, it comes back on us as a dropout.”
Hartsig detailed five “strategies” being implemented to boost the graduation rate and decrease the dropout rate:
• Availability of remediation classes in math and English. Pre-Algebra 090 is a math class separate from Algebra 101 which works on foundation math skills for 12 weeks before students enroll in algebra. English 090 is a 12-week reading class for students who are low readers.
• Availability of self-contained classes in algebra and geometry for students with special math needs instructed by a special education teacher.
• Offering Web-based credit recovery for students behind in graduation credits. These opportunities are available four out of the five class periods during the day, as well as after school.
• After-school tutoring is available for all students in all subjects four days a week in the study table.
• After-school tutoring in math four days a week for all students.
“Our goal is a 100-percent graduation rate,” Hartsig said. “Our ACT scores have gone up in every subject over the past three years, but we still have a ways to go.”
Board member Bill Lawrence asked whether there is any program in the elementary schools that encourages parents to read to their children.
“I’m a strong believer that teaches vocabulary, diction, sentence structure and language skills all the way around.”
“Yes, we do,” Superintendent Peg Stowers responded. “It’s part of our elementary belief that parents should read to students every night. Teachers do encourage that and, in some situations parents pledge to do that. We believe so much in that that one of the speakers we had for professional development encouraged teachers to read to their students every day – not for long periods of time – but for the very things you’re talking about: fluency, diction, vocabulary. She said if you want to see your scores go up, that’s one of the most significant ways children need to hear people reading to them. I watched a lot of teachers purchase a lot of books outside that assembly that morning. I’m really hoping it gets to be a regular part of our day in our classrooms K-12.”
Stowers said as part of United Way nationally this year, Dolly Parton’s foundation is enrolling all U.S. 5-year-olds for a book every month.
“We also send books home with students in our summer programs,” Stowers said. “Part of our literacy push this year is reading anywhere, everywhere.”
The Life of an Athlete, Sept. 29-30
Stowers reported that the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and Van Buren-Cass District Health Department wrote a grant to bring Olympian John Underwood’s program to the county.
“It is a program designed to improve education and health of athletes in the county,” Stowers explained. “He works very heavily in educating athletes about problems of substance abuse and what it does to you, not only as an athlete, but as a human being. The entire state of New York has adopted this health program for all of its athletes. It’s quickly becoming something other states are looking at.”
Two members of the health department staff are being trained to come into school districts to work with coaches and in middle school and high school health and physical education classes.
“Sherm Ostrander (Edwardsburg superintendent) and myself, because we both have large PACs (Performing Arts Centers), volunteered to use our facilities the 29th and 30th to invite all of our athletic directors, all of our coaches middle school and high school, our school administrators middle school and high school and our school boards to listen to John Underwood and his program,” Stowers said. “I had the opportunity to do so, and the information delivered is pretty phenomenal.”
“We all believe that educating young people about the harmful effects of substance abuse really will make a difference over time,” she added. “Marcellus and Cassopolis coaches and administrators will be involved as well. We will also have two assemblies on the 29th in our district. The high school in the morning all the athletes will gather to listen to John Underwood. In the afternoon, it will be sixth through eighth grades here at the middle school.”
Then, the health department representatives will visit health classes and PE classes, including the DUHS conditioning class, throughout the year.
“It takes about five years to implement something like this,” Stowers said.