The Douglas School Board of Education received updates from Midstate Energy and had a presentation delivered to them on the implementation of the AIMS letter grade at their regular board meeting Sept. 16.
Following the action items on the agenda the board then moved into a two and a half hour work session where Beverly Enriquez, Douglas’ Curriculum and Federal Programs Director, and her staff presented a power point presentation.
DUSD School Improvement Specialist Karla Campillo-Soto, began the presentation on the new Arizona Department of Education letter grades system (A,B,C,D) which is the system that is replacing the Legacy Labels System (Excelling, Performing, Performing Plus, Underperforming) that had been in place. This system is used to determine a school or district’s academic performance on AIMS (Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards).
Campillo-Soto said in the new system, schools and districts are measured on the growth per student, growth for the bottom 25 percent of students and the number of students who meet/exceed on AIMS. Bonus points are given for grade levels who reclassify more than 30 percent of their English Language Learners. Bonus points are also given at the high school level for maintaining or improving the drop out and graduation rate.
The second part of the presentation was done by other members of the Curriculum and Federal Programs Department including ELD Coaches Corinna Monje-Moen and Maira Gonzalez as well as School Improvement Specialist Angelica Chavez, Assistant Director od CFPD Denise Cox and Enriquez.
Enriquez began the presentation by explaining that the district had done a comparison of the letter grades across the county and state. Within Cochise County, DUSD ranked 12th out of 24 school districts in the area. School districts with similar demographics were selected in order to compare the results. School districts included such districts as Sunnyside in Tucson, Creighton, Cartwright and Issac School Districts in Phoenix, Yuma, Nogales, and Gadsden in San Luis. Of the 14 school districts selected, DUSD ranked seventh, placing it in the middle once again.
The coaches explained how there are many factors that could be considered contributors to lower academic achievement. These factors could include poverty, English language development, low parental involvement, high teacher turn-over, and lack of pre-school participation in young children, among others. The instructional coaches gave many statistics and examples of how these factors contribute to low student achievement.
The coaches noted that poverty could be considered a major contributor to low achievement, since 95 percent of the students in the district are on free or reduced lunch.
Although English Language Learners (ELL) plays a big part in contributing to bonus points for reclassification in the letter grades, in DUSD only 15 percent of the students are currently considered ELL. When compared to having the ELD students in or out of the formula for earning a higher letter grade, some of the schools would have lowered their letter grade without the ELD students in the mix.
The board was also informed parental involvement plays a huge part in student achievement and teacher turn over is also an important factor to consider.
“Although retention rates for new teachers have increased over the past few years, it is critical to note that turn-over is a factor for the middle schools in particular,” Enriquez said. “The New Teacher Induction Program and instructional coaching both play a part in having the new teachers stay in the district.”
Lack of preschool attendance and single parent homes could also be contributing factors. Enriquez noted the district has many different ways of addressing these factors. Free breakfast and lunch, services for students in the Migrant and McKinney Vento program, GEAR UP, and tutoring are only some of the ways the district helps with breaking the cycle of poverty.
Instructional coaching in ELD is available to help teachers with ELD students and how to make sure that they are reaching their reclassification rates, as well as student achievement rates on AIMS. The Family Leadership Institute is a powerful way that the district is reaching parents, grandparents, community members, and teachers regarding how to continue to improve parent involvement. The superintendent has monthly luncheons for parent representatives from each site in order to listen to their concerns and inform them about the district. Each school also has PTSO, site council and other ways to reach parents. New Teacher Induction and Instructional coaching continue to assist new teachers in the classroom. Each school has at least two coaches on site at all times to assist with support and resources. DUSD has a thriving preschool program at two sites with the hope of expanding that in the future.
“The bottom line for improving the district scores continues to be good instruction in the classroom,” Enriquez said. “Adherence to the new common core pacing guides is critical to the success of the teachers and students.”
Assessing what is being learned with short common assessments is the next step. These assessments are being created and implemented this year. The assessments are designed to show the teacher which students need more help and what material still needs to be taught. Students who need more help need to attend intervention during the day. More intervention is offered for those students who need it after school.
Instructional coaches are now on site to assist teachers right away, to provide professional development at the principal’s or teachers’ request, and to support teachers in general. The new evaluation system was designed to tie student’s academic achievement on AIMS and common assessments to their evaluation. All of these components together, if done with fidelity and correctly, will help teachers be more effective in the classroom and will increase student achievement. Teachers are implementing these elements this year for the first time.
“It has not been easy for anyone,” Enriquez said.
Prior to the work session the board met briefly in executive session to discuss releasing Ron Ellsworth from his contract for retirement effective Dec. 21, 2012. Ellsworth, who has been with the district 33 years, will return for the spring semester of 2013 under the Smartschools plus phased retirement program. The board agreed to grant Ellsworth’s retirement with a payout of all applicable benefits.
In other action the board approved compensation of $2,000 for teachers Hannah Hurtado, Mary Ann Diaz and Gustavo Enriquez who will be transferring to other schools in the district. Hurtado will transfer from Carlos to Faras; Diaz from Stevenson to Huber and Enriquez from Clawson to Ray Borane.
The board approved the hiring of Edgar Quintero as a transportation bus driver and the resignations of Yvonne Sanchez and Cecilia Pickell.
A matter regarding the approval of additional work hours for cafeteria staff to work as sub-custodians was tabled. Board member Mike Ortega said he was okay with the request but wanted an idea as to how much it was going to cost the district. The issue will be readdressed at the next meeting which will take place Nov. 5 at 5:30 p.m. in the DUSD board room.