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Principals refine plans to improve student achievement in South End schools

LANGLEY — Principals at South Whidbey schools have been busy collecting data and organizing teacher-driven sessions to improve test scores.

As a response to not making adequate yearly progress — a state benchmark for academic improvement — the South Whidbey School District established school improvement plans.

Though the district doesn’t have a formula as to how it will raise test scores, District Superintendent Jo Moccia set two goals: By 2020, 100 percent of graduates will be career and college ready, and by 2014 schools will implement a uniform evaluation method for all staff.

Moccia gave school board members an overview at their meeting last week.

“First things first, what does college and career ready mean,” Moccia said. “Then we move from there and articulate what it looks like at the building level.”

“We’re slowly working toward what we need to be.”

Both South Whidbey elementary and Langley middle schools failed to meet the reading proficiency goal.

Staff and faculty, according to Moccia, are reserved about their expectations for the district’s plan.

“They’re cautiously optimistic,” she said.

Another part of the district plan is to evaluate its programs, classes, needs and facilities, which will happen this year. The district recently completed a program matrix that shows all of its classes, from kindergarten to calculus to advanced metals fabrication.

From there, Moccia said, teachers can be placed in necessary courses to graduate students ready for work or more advanced study.

It’s a reboot of an earlier plan from the previous school board to consolidate students from the middle school to South Whidbey High School’s campus.

The district’s main high school met its reading and math goals, except for reading participation among low-income students.

Principal John Patton reported his teachers used a staff day to examine test scores and discussed how they may improve them. The school has a list of more than 50 students “for a wide variety of reasons,” who were nominated for particular assistance in school.

“This is the first time we sat down as a staff and identified individual students and their struggles,” Patton said. “It seems to be really effective.”

“If we can’t support our kids, and they’re not happy, healthy and feel safe, obviously they’re not going to learn,” he added.

Patton and his staff created four goals on reading, writing, math and science scores. By the end of the school year, at least 92 percent of students will pass the High School Proficiency Exam in reading; 95 percent in writing; 75 percent in algebra end-of-course exams; and 90 percent in geometry. Another goal is for students to beat the state average in biology.

Patton said teachers also identified students who have struggled with literary texts. The high school’s remedy is to have those students meet one-on-one or in small groups with tutors.

“I imagine those students leave feeling there are more staff who know their name, know who they are,” said School Board Member Fred O’Neal.

In math, Patton credited school-test improvement to the decision to group its Algebra I course in concurrent semesters.

The high school also created a practice end-of-course exam for algebra to prepare students for the spring test.

Reading proficiency was not met at Langley Middle School.

Low-income students in seventh and eighth grade struggled the most to pass the reading standard, passing at about 73 percent (the needed average is 82.5).

LMS principal Eric Nerison’s report said classroom-based interventions would be the main solution to the problem.

Fourth- and fifth-grade students at South Whidbey Elementary School failed to meet the reading standard of 88.1 percent. Of the 123 fifth-graders, only 80.3 percent met the standard, as did only 56.7 percent of the 90 fourth-graders.

Principal Jamie Boyd said grade-level teachers are meeting to discuss their school-wide approach on reading remediation and intervention for struggling students. Finding time to allow teachers to meet has proven difficult yet effective, Boyd said.

“More and more teachers are appreciating that time,” she said.

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