Whitewater school behind on state reading standard
The special education students at Whitewater Middle School did not meet the standard for improvement in reading, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.
The school has been placed on a “watch list” of schools that failed to make “adequate yearly progress.”
“It is disappointing because we want all students to achieve at a high level,” said Principal Eric Runez, “but certainly we’re aware that’s a student subgroup that needs additional attention and special efforts.”
The “adequate yearly progress” list is part of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which requires schools to improve over time.
The standard for math this year was to have at least 58 percent of students scoring in the “proficient” or “advanced” categories on state standardized tests. The standard for reading was to have at least 74 percent of students scoring in the “proficient” or “advanced” categories.
At Whitewater Middle School, just 36 percent of special education students scored high enough on the tests, taken last November.
The federal No Child Left Behind law gradually raises the bar so that by 2014, all students are expected to be “proficient” or “advanced.”
A school or district that fails to meet the adequate yearly progress standard two years in a row is labeled “identified for improvement.” If such a school receives federal Title 1 funding, the government imposes sanctions.
Initial sanctions require a school write an improvement plan and allow parents to send their children to a higher-performing school in the district.
The Whitewater School District this year started using a test called Measures of Academic Progress, which is administered in the fall and the spring and could prove to be more reliable than the once-a-year state test, Runez said.
But the district hasn’t had a chance to review the most recent test data, so it’s unclear whether special education students at the middle school have improved since the fall, he said.
Runez said the district was targeting its efforts at special education students even before the adequate yearly progress data was released this week.
“I wouldn’t say it’s based on (test) scores, but special education, ELL (English language learners), low socioeconomic status—we’re constantly looking at those (demographics),” he said. “We really do set that goal that all students achieve at a high level, and we try to minimize those challenges those students come to us with as much as possible.”
The Whitewater School District plans to use federal stimulus money to address the gap among special education students, including hiring a special education teacher to reduce middle school caseloads, revising reading curriculum and strengthening special education programming, Runez said.
The district also is considering buying into a reading intervention program to be implemented at the middle school in the fall, he said.
“We’ll be meeting over the summer to make a game plan for how we’re going to implement these initiatives,” Runez said.
Delavan-Darien School District Administrator Wendy Overturf is happy the district has been taken off the list of districts that have not made adequate yearly progress.
But that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop trying to improve, Overturf said.
The high school made the list last year for failing to meet minimum graduation rate standards, Overturf said.
The school this year met the minimum requirement of an 80 percent graduation rate. That’s up slightly from 76 percent last year, Overturf said.
“That’s not as good as we need to be,” Overturf said. “We need to continue to improve.”
The district looked at the graduation needs of the individual students at risk of dropping out rather than looking at the students as a whole, Overturf said.
Individualized attention also brought Phoenix Middle School off the AYP list, Overturf said.
Special education students at Phoenix last year failed to make adequate yearly progress in reading, Overturf said.
The district found improvement by increasing the type and amount of testing and by using test results to change classroom instruction, Overturf said.
Sharon School District
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction listed Sharon Community School as failing to make adequate yearly progress in reading this year.
The Gazette was unable to contact Administrator Stev