School Board holds public hearing on Unified Improvement Plan

Hearing required before District submits plan to CDE next week

by Patty Unruh

The school board held a brief hearing the evening of January 8 for the purpose of giving the public an opportunity to ask questions and make comments about the school district’s unified improvement plan. The plan’s purpose is to help students to bring their academic performance up to Colorado state standards.

Board members present were President Craig Holmes, Charlotte Taylor, Rusty Hardy, and Kersten Armstrong. Interim superintendent Morris Ververs, secondary principal Alexis Donaldson, and elementary principal Lisa Schell were also present. District Accountability Committee members Gigetta Nadeau, Mary Lorenz, and Dee Adams attended as well. No other parents attended; however, they have been kept well informed throughout the process.

Ververs began the hearing by noting that the hearing was being held as required by law to allow parents to provide input about the District’s plan to make improvements in students’ learning outcomes. The District is required to submit the plan to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) by January 15. The changes are to be in place for next school year.

Ververs summarized the progress, stating that this past October, the District came up with a plan with the help of the CDE. The plan was in place by November 11, and educational consultant Ava Lanes came to work with the teachers on techniques to bring the school in line with state standards.

Ververs was pleased at the “rich discussion” that had been held previously with the District Accountability Committee (DAC), who is required to approve the plan. Holmes thanked Ververs and the two principals for “digging into the numbers and not waiting until September.” He believed the school would reap the rewards for beginning work on the plan aggressively.

Gigetta Nadeau rose to speak. “I’ve been on the DAC for three years,” she said. “I’ve been watching Lisa (Schell) and Alex (Donaldson), and we are headed in the right direction. As a parent, I believe this is the right direction. Let’s work with the state, but not wait for them.”

Board member Armstrong was also pleased that the plan was being attacked vigorously. “One problem has been to align to the test standards,” she said. “But that is not as important as the elementary students having the tools to be successful in middle school and high school. The task is to align the teaching with the testing. It’s a more achievable goal than teaching things that we are not already teaching.”

The law is S.B. 10-191, which is intended to provide “a system to evaluate the effectiveness of licensed personnel to improve the quality of education.” Its provisions include feedback for professional growth and continuous improvement, and a basis for “making decisions in the areas of hiring, compensation, promotion, assignment, professional development, earning and retaining non-probationary status, dismissal, and nonrenewal of contract.”

For example, the definition of principal effectiveness notes, “Effective principals in the state of Colorado are responsible for the collective success of their schools, including the learning growth and achievement of both students and staff. As a school’s primary instructional leaders, effective principals enable critical discourse and data-driven reflection about curriculum, assessment, instruction, and student progress, and create structures to facilitate improvement. Effective principals are adept at creating systems that maximize the utilization of resources and human capital, foster collaboration, and facilitate construction change…”

The Unified Improvement Plan for the elementary school shows the 2011-12 federal and state expectations for academic achievement status at 72.05 percent for reading, 70.11 percent for math, 54.84 percent for writing, and 45.36 percent for science. The actual results were 75.61 percent, 71.84 percent, 53.47 percent, and 48.65 percent, respectively. The elementary school’s main difficulty shows not having clear grade-level expectations as a root cause to low writing achievement.

Documents from the plan and assessments show that the 2011-2012 state and federal expectations for middle school and high school reading were 71.43 and 73.33 percent, respectively. The actual results were 74.32 and 81.08.

For math the expectations were 52.48 and 33.52, and the results were 54.05 and 40.54. For writing, the expectations were 57.77 and 50, while the results were 54.79 and 64.86. For science the expectations were 48 and 50, while the results were 68.75 and 63.16.

That means the school meets expectations on those categories.

Gilpin also meets expectations for overall rating for secondary academic growth, meets the expected graduation rate of 80 percent (with 89.5 percent), and the expected mean ACT composite score with 20.2. The expected score was 20.

It is approaching the expected level for dropout rate of no more than 3.6 percent, with a figure of 6.8 percent, although in a small school like Gilpin, that figure may be problematic, and each student can impact that figure greatly, whereas in a large district each student would have nominal impact on that.

Gilpin also is approaching the expectation for overall rating for growth gaps.

Other results show that the school did not meet the target for academic achievement for 5th and 6th graders, although the students went from 68 proficient and advanced in 5th grade to 69 percent and advanced in 6th grade. The expectation was 71 percent.

Regarding academic growth, the high school met expectations, with an academic reading score of 65. For middle school, the score was 41, with 42 being the expected result.

Gilpin confirmed it has implemented a literacy intervention in middle school, and officials hope to address individual student gaps in reading, because the average growth percentile in reading for grade 6-8 free and reduced lunch students, while it was hoped to increase to 48, actually rose to 39.

Among the observations was that the school needs “to use standards to align instruction as opposed to a particular text book.” The school also concluded, “We must use ACT/PSAT data to drive instructional decisions and intentionally teach ACT test skills.”

Also assembled were targets for the coming school years, with hopes that ACT averages will rise to 21, then 22.

“Although we saw a significant increase in our ACT scores in 2012, our composite score remains below the state average: 20.7 (2010), 17.6 (2011), 20.2 (2012).

Plans are to provide training time to teachers as well as schedule formative assessment training, four days at $1500 per day, and formative assessment coaching days, four days at $1000 per day.

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