Archive for Wednesday, August 20, 2003

District expected to improve on assessments

August 20, 2003

Baldwin students have made vast improvements on their state assessment scores over the past couple of years, but not quite all of the district's students are showing as much progress as they should.

The district was recently named one of seven in Kansas that was designated as a district "on improvement" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Supt. James White said the reason for the designation was because students with disabilities, those identified with special needs, did not show adequate improvement -- at least 10 percent in the proficient or above levels -- on reading assessments.

"What it means is that we need to work harder to meet the needs of special education students," White said. "This is pointing out an area we need to address."

Even though it's a district as a whole that's listed as needing improvement, he said it's only a small number of students -- 36 students -- that didn't show adequate yearly progress (AYP) on the reading assessment.

"All the schools made AYP and they all did very well," he said. "All the schools are in great shape as far as meeting AYP."

Baldwin Curriculum Director Connie Wehmeyer agreed the recent designation shouldn't overshadow the schools' improvements on assessments.

"We have much to celebrate," Wehmeyer said. "Our scores in math and reading across the schools are very much worth celebrating. We don't want anyone for a moment to de-emphasize their accomplishments."

She said recent changes in calculating AYP standards played a part in the district's designation.

"The appropriate headline for this is trapped in transition," she said. "Some of this was definitely out of our control."

Under the old guidelines, smaller sub-groups were not considered in calculating AYP. But, she said, the 2002-2003 school year was the first year the assessment scores of the disaggragated groups, like the students with disabilities, were calculated.

"But it's a positive change," she said. "We need to be looking at that because we want to meet the needs of all of our students."

White said before their scores can be calculated separately, the disaggragated groups must have a minimum of 30 students. Because no school in the Baldwin district had at least 30 students with disabilities, the entire district, with a total of 36 students with disabilities, was instead named as the one needing improvement.

"If we would have had six students less, we wouldn't even be where we are," he said. "We wouldn't have enough special education students."

In order for the district to lose the "on improvement" designation, he said students with disabilities will have to show adequate yearly progress in reading assessments both in 2004 and 2005.

"As a staff and a district, we are going to focus more attention to reading skills for these children who are not reading well," he said.

The district will approach the improvements that need to be made, Wehmeyer said, much like it did when individual Baldwin schools focused on state assessments a couple of years ago.

"We will focus on student skills, particularly reading," she said. "We are going to have to look at what we do, what we want our kids to know, how we know if they know it and what we are prepared to do for those not reaching our goals.

"The goal is to meet the needs of all of our kids," she said. "That's what we're going to strive for this year."

Wehmeyer said it will also be important for the district to focus on graduation rates for students with disabilities.

"We did not meet graduation AYP for these kids either," she said. "The target is to get 75 percent of those kids to graduate. Right now, we only have 53.8 percent graduating."

White said he is confident the district will be successful in making the progress it needs because of its past accomplishments with state assessments.

"I believe we had great staff support, great parent support in the past and our kids just did really well," he said. "I feel we'll do the same thing this year with this particular disaggragated group."

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