Lisbon assesses ‘state of the schools’
June 28, 2013 · Jake Krob
As the torch began to be passed from one superintendent to another, the Lisbon School Board held a "state of the schools" meeting this month to discuss the district's strengths and challenges.
The meetings have been held annually in recent years. This year, both outgoing superintendent Brad Laures and incoming superintendent Patrick Hocking were present. Laures and principals Ian Dye and Roger Teeling presented Iowa Assessments test result data on the district.
Much of the discussion by the board and administrators revolved around what the district could do to boost performance.
Board member Eric Krob pointed to a 55 percent ranking nationally for Lisbon. He said Iowa strongly values education, and Lisbon in particular has focused on excellence in recent years. He added that the board has supported numerous changes, from technology investments to more professional development.
"What can we aspire to?" he asked. "Aren't we in the most fertile, opportune place in America?"
Teeling said a focus this coming year will be on identifying the teaching strategies Lisbon educators need to use to further help students.
Dye pointed out that by the time students reach the upper high school grades, classes have extremely high levels of proficiency, even if they didn't in lower grades.
"We're getting the puzzle completed," he said.
Krob suggested the board meet with teachers to let them know "we're all on the same team." He said he'd like to hear from staff what they need.
"All the chips are in for the board," he said. "That's our commitment."
The board decided that it will meet with teachers next school year.
Laures noted that if 10 percent of students in a particular grade aren't proficient in a subject area, that equates to five children. He said the key to discussions with staff will be identifying those particular students and working to increase their skills.
Dye and Teeling said that's the beauty of the data. They can identify exactly what questions the majority of students have problems with, or where particular students are struggling.
Teeling presented general data on first through fifth grades. He said detailed information - including on individual students going as deep as how well they did on certain questions - will be available soon.
He pointed to math as a challenge area, with Lisbon's percentage of proficient students being lower or equal to the nation in several grade levels.
"Math, in the upper elementary grades, is an area we need to zero in on," he said.
Teeling said the elementary team will be working with the school's Grant Wood Area Education Agency math consultant to identify where the issues are.
Laures said the detailed test data will help. He said if the data shows the majority of students missed a particular question, staff can see what needs to be addressed.
A positive included the growth seen in this year's fourth-graders. As third-graders, some struggled in English and language arts, test data showed. This year, the typical student in fourth grade scored higher than 71 percent of fourth graders in the nation.
"We turned the tide there," Teeling said.
Board member Dave Prasil also pointed to second grade reading, where more than 50 percent of the students scored at high achieving levels.
"It's extraordinary," Teeling said, noting that about 90 percent of students were in the middle- to high-achievement levels.
Dye presented data for the middle and high school.
He pointed out that an area of concern last year (2011-12) was reading. Students in grades seventh through 10th made significant growth. For instance, last year's ninth-grade class was 67 percent proficient in reading; this year, 83 percent were proficient.
Among this year's sixth grade, percent proficiency in reading declined from 78 percent the year before to 64 percent this year. The 11th grade went from 84 percent to 76 percent.
Dye said teachers have already seen the data and "they don't make any excuses." Instead, he said, they are eager to dig deeper into the data to see where challenge areas might be.
Dye said a big thing with the data is that it shows what a student's expected growth should be from one year to the next. He said a focus this coming school year will be on having students assess their own results.
He also noted that schools are required to do two different assessments. The first is the Iowa Assessments, the second is end-of-course grades (if they pass classes, they are considered proficient). Dye said staff is now examining a second more formal assessment to implement.
Laures presented his insights as well.
He suggested increasing in-house course offerings for students.
Board member Krob said he didn't understand how that was "an answer to a path of 100 percent proficiency."
Dye and Laures said the classes do include core content lessons, and some are particularly helpful for high achieving students.
Laures also suggested the district get back to a regular cycle of curriculum and materials review, perhaps with math as the starting point.
He concluded with thoughts on facilities. Noting that some lower level grades' enrollments are much larger than current high school grades, "in about 10 years it could be pretty crowded around here."