Principals Share Improvement Efforts

Educators Focus on Language Arts, Math
Posted on 10/24/2019
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As part of the report on Illinois Assessment of Readiness at the Oct. 22 Board of Education meeting, district principals provided examples of what was done last year as well as work taking place this year to improve teaching and learning. 

English Language Arts
When combining all grades and schools, the percent of students meeting or exceeding expectations in English language arts climbed 6 points in 2019 to 68% meeting or exceeding expectations on the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR). School scores range from 72 percent to 66 percent meeting or exceeding expectations.

At Northbrook Junior High, Principal Dr. Scott Meek said last year every grade-level team evaluated daily lesson plans to make sure they were aligned to learning standards and that learning expectations were clearly articulated to students. Assessment results showed that our students struggled in writing and reading informational text in comparison to literary texts, he said. To address this, teachers continue to expand writing opportunities and ensure consistency in classroom literacy experiences. The junior high this year added more variety in non-fiction texts and writing prompts through a new resource called Amplify.

Last year, the elementary principals evaluated teaching practices to ensure all three schools were implementing the instructional strategies of the Literacy Studio curriculum with fidelity, said Westmoor Principal Mary Sturgill. Instructional facilitators supported teachers at each school with 4- to 8-week coaching cycles. This included co-planning, reviewing student performance results, modeling lessons and modeling conferring with students: the core strategies Literacy Studio curriculum. This year, a new grammar resource is being used for first- through fifth-grade.

Greenbriar Principal Ginny Hiltz said there is also a focus on the lower grades – so students come to intermediate grades prepared to be successful. A new phonics program is being implemented for kindergarten.

After analyzing IAR results and areas where our students were not as successful, teachers continue to weave reading and writing prompts that are similar to IAR-type questions into classroom work. Teachers are talking about what good writers do, next steps for good writers and working with kids in small groups on strategies.

 “We don't call it teaching to the test but rather testing as a genre so (students) understand what it is they’re being asked to do in order to show what they know,” Mrs. Sturgill said.

Math

In math, district-wide IAR scores climbed 4 points to 66 percent of all students meeting or exceeding expectations. Meadowbrook School saw the highest average, where 76 percent of students meet or exceed expectations in math.

This year the math program is under program review and a district-wide committee is evaluating the curriculum and resources. Several program enhancements have been put in place for this year.

At the junior high, Dr. Meek said the math team has analyzed test scores to identify areas of growth and strategies to improve. The pacing guides for all junior high math classes have been reviewed to make sure there is ample time allocated to the right areas. A new math instructional coach is ensuring alignment across grade levels, as well as consistency in instructional practices and student work expectations. The junior high is also offering additional student support during X-block and offering supplemental online resources through ALEKS.

At the elementary level, Meadowbrook Principal Pat Thome said after analyzing assessment results, they saw that our students perform very well in computation but were not as strong in explaining their work. So, an instructional strategy started last year is being implemented across all grades in all three elementary schools this year. Number Talks is a 15-minute exercise in which students problem-solve in their head and share their thinking with their peers.

Also, a majority of teachers participated in professional development offered by the district over the summer to improve math instruction. They also have support from math instructional specialists to model lessons and co-teach. At the early grades, screeners are helping teachers identify students who need additional support in understanding math and number concepts. Home practice was implemented uniformly across elementary grades and schools this year with content developed over the summer from our math specialists. The district is also adding an online resource this year called Dreambox.

“We look at strengths and weaknesses and figure out what we need to do next,” said Dr. Raitzer. “We collaborate with colleagues from other districts as we work on addressing our needs."

The state releases all scores for all schools on Oct. 30 and they will be posted on the illinoisreportcard.com website.

Read the full report on the Oct. 22 Board of Education meeting in the October Board Briefs.