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Improvement teams dissect data

Published 11:02pm Monday, May 3, 2010

By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News

Dowagiac Union Schools met Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) state averages in three categories, third grade reading, fourth grade math and fifth grade math.
The district failed to meet MEAP state averages in 13 other categories.

But as Patti Brallier, completing her third year as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, pointed out Monday night at the annual Board of Education special 90-minute work session with building school improvement teams in the middle school cafeteria, comparing Dowagiac’s scores for 2009 with 2008 saw scores 3 percent away from state average in third grade math, 1 percent in fourth grade reading, 1 percent in fifth grade reading, 2 percent in fifth grade science, 5 percent in sixth grade reading, 6 percent in sixth grade math, 7 percent in sixth grade social studies, 6 percent in seventh grade reading, 5 percent in seventh grade math, 2 percent in eighth grade reading, 11 percent in eighth grade math, 9 percent in eighth grade science and 6 percent in ninth grade social studies

Her point being that percentage deficits in third, fourth and fifth grade math, reading and science scores are within reach of corrections with slight adjustments, where sixth grade reading, math and social studies must be addressed in fifth grade in addition to prep work at the beginning of sixth grade as MEAP approaches.

Seventh, eighth and ninth grade reading, math, science and social studies also need attention.

Brallier recommended social studies prep work as MEAP approaches for ninth graders.
“I’m not talking about state averages now,” Brallier said, “I’m talking about the growth of Dowagiac students – not to the extent we want, but we are moving forward. It’s easier to work on 1 and 2 percents. I become increasingly concerned when I look at grade sixth, seven, eight and nine. Percentages increase as to how far away we are from the state average. There’s an elephant in the room we can’t deny is there and we have to work diligently about how we attack those subjects.”

Improvement plans are specific to each building, taking into consideration data generated.
Buildings, throughout the year and on this annual basis, review their plans and practices to consider ways to improve and enhance student achievement.

This review centers around each building’s multiple sources of data.

Data is “most powerful when used not just to automate current systems but to provide a critical catalyst and took for transforming the way that systems work,” Brallier said. “This process, commonly referred to as the school improvement process, is deeply embedded in building, district and state planning. Recent state and federal mandates, including testing directives and increased accountability, have intensified the importance of the process.”

“Public schools are in the midst of high-stake challenges,” she said. “Our mission is to educate all children to their fullest potential. We are called to raise test scores, reduce the number of dropouts and narrow the achievement gap separating our subgroups. These are daunting tasks. We are, we must be, up to the challenge. Our principals need to be given support to transform teaching and learning and hold all employees to high standards while working with our parents in our team effort to educate the children in our community.”

“Every score has a name,” Superintendent Peg Stowers added.

“Dowagiac has great things going on in classrooms and in our buildings, and we’re only fooling ourselves if we think that’s not happening. This gives you a really good outlook about what’s happening. Buildings that aren’t quite where they want to be have really strong plans to get there. We’re preparing children for functional independence as community citizens later on.”

About three dozen parents, school board members, principals, central administrators and staff took part, finishing the evening in small groups to identify three strengths and three challenges from a packet of data.

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