This past Monday was the Octorara Area School District Education Committee Meeting. It was 2 hours of in-depth discussions. Those interested in knowing more about what the District is doing to improve students’ academic achievement should make time to attend.
Elena Wilson provided a presentation on the new Teacher Effectiveness scoring, which will be part of teacher reviews as mandated by the state. Teachers will be scored across several areas using obeservations, SPP scores, PVAAS data, and acheiving Student Learning Objectives. Could these scores be linked to some type of merit pay system? It is possible, but not without a fight from the Teachers Union.
The Committee received an update on the Learning Focused Schools initiative from both Dr Newcome and Elena Wilson. At this moment, teachers are doing 100% of what is being asked. However, it is with a bit less than 100% enthusiasm. The Teachers Union has reached out, and is working with the Administration with the goal of this project being successful.
Scott Rohrer, principle for the Jr/Sr High School, provided an update on the iPad program. “Extra” iPads are being filtered down to lower grades, as low as 3rd grade, for teachers to use in the classroom. Physical books will only be replaced with etexts as they wear out or need updating. This has happened with one AP class this year, and several books have free digital copies of books already in use. A list of goals is being created for teachers, with the intent of ensuring iPads will be used in all/most classes.
Kathryn Michalowski, Director of Special Education, reviewed an update of the Comprehensive Plan’s Goal 4. The District is to fully ensure students who are academically at risk are identified and supported by a process of intervention based upon student needs, and including procedures for monitoring effectiveness. In Pennsylvania, this is called a Response to Instruction and Intervention Plan.
More on 3rd Grade Reading
A while back, I made the assertion that if we want to know why high school academic achievement is low, all we need to do if look at 3rd Grade reading proficiency. My argument is based on the latest research in education, which indicates reading proficiency is the most accurate determiner of academic achievement, and that 3rd Grade Reading is a “make it or break it” benchmark for students.
In an attempt to test this theory, in December I asked Elena Wilson to prepare 2 reports. The first report tracked the reading proficiency of Octorara’s Class of 2014 from 3rd Grade to present day. What she was able to provide was the PSSA proficiency scores, including subgroups, from 3rd Grade to 8th Grade, and the Winter 2012-13 Keystone Literature proficiency.
We see that, while there were some year to year fluctuations in the percentages, the outcome and overall trend is predicable. Roughly 23% of students not proficient in Reading by 3rd Grade becomes about 31% of students not doing well in Literature in 11th Grade. Education Research has concluded that students learn to read up until 3rd Grade, then read to learn from 4th Grade forward. A student not proficient in Reading has difficultly comprehending the written curriculum, and can never fully catch up to their peers.
The second part of the data was the year-over-year scores for just 3rd Grade Reading. I wanted to see how well Octorara has done, over time, to achieve this very important benchmark. I also asked for the Adequate Yearly Progress goals.
We see is no improvement over time. The AYP Goals start low in 2005, but as the goals increased, performance did not. In fact, 3rd Grade Reading proficiency has been trending downward the last 3 years.
The bright spot in the report was an outstanding 86.4% Reading proficiency in 2008, and an 85.5% Reading proficiency in 2009. These numbers just pop off the page at you, begging the question, “What was different about those 2 years?” I have asked Ms. Wilson to provide me a report answering that very question.
Additionally, I have asked the report to include the Reading scores of these two groups of students as they have continued onward. Has the percentage of those proficient continued to stay this high?