Elementary school reports

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Principal Nancy Gardner presented an end of the year report for the elementary school to the WLCSD board on Monday, July 21.

The focus of her talk revolved around upcoming rescheduling due to the school becoming a "School in Need of Assistance" (SINA) and requirement from the state of Iowa.

During its Iowa Assessments tests in 2013 many of the students tested poorly, resulting in it becoming a SINA school.

Since the WL elementary program receives Title One funding, which is financial assistance for schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families, it's required to come up with a plan to get students back on track.

As a result, the elementary school is in the middle of reworking its daily schedule for the 2014/2015 year that allows more students to receive intervention.

Intervention is a special time set aside for students that need help directly from one teacher. It's a one-on-one instructional period that addresses specific needs.

Before, students that needed help were pulled out of a 90 minute reading class for 30 minutes of intervention. However, Iowa state law mandates that students cannot be pulled out of core classes for intervention.

However, the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) committee has added an intervention time for all students in the schedule to address the problem.

"What we're going to do is, we have been able to designate a 45 minute time period at each grade level, during that time all students will go somewhere," said Principal Gardner.

During that 45 minute block, students that need intervention will get it, while those that don't will use it for study time and extension activities.

"That's what we call the Walk to Intervention Model, it's something I'm excited about, it's a model that makes sure kids aren't missing anything, and I really like that," she added.

Principal Gardner added that interventions are mandated by the state, so there needed to be a time set aside for it.

In order to fit a new 45 minute block in its tight schedule, the school will institute rolling lunches. Before they had separate 30 minute lunch periods, now they'll overlap them. While one group of students is finishing another will come in the lunch room.

"We're going to have to, with some science and social study classes, do some creative scheduling," said Principal Gardner. "Either three days of one and two days of the other or something like that."

She indicated that something had to give, but to stay on par with Iowa's rules and expectations, changing the schedule was a necessary move.

Besides rescheduling, MTSS committee has organized literacy and math units that address the Iowa Core. The units are used to take core standards and apply them to the students.

As the 2014/2015 year begins it will begin implementing FAST training to the faculty, which is a new assessment that will replace DRA and SRI assessments.

All of these moves are part of the elementary school's plan to address its designation as a SINA school. It focused on the staff last year to help them better educate students.

"We did a study of all the data, we did a qualitative and quantative look at all the things, through this whole process we were able to determine two key areas of need."

First, the school had a ton of data, but wasn't using it correctly. Secondly, there were so many separate initiatives going on that teachers were overwhelmed. During this last year the school addressed both areas.

To fix the first issue, the elementary school sent three teachers to become certified data team instructors, meaning they were trained in looking at the data using Iowa Core standards.

After returning they began training staff in data use in January during the school's weekly Wednesday Professional development time.

For the second problem the elementary school employed several solutions. The first was a day long motivational seminar put on by internationally recognized motivational speaker Dr. Alan Zimmerman.

The second was the creation of the MTSS committee, which has attempted to streamline committee work for better use of time and communication.

"We have looked at all our different initiatives and we have combined committees," she said. "Streamlining our committees will be very helpful."
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