Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TOP STORY >> Lonoke: We’re doing better

Leader staff writer

Lonoke schools just barely missed their achievement goals this year and have been improving inconsistently in the past few years, principals said during an annual public at Monday’s board meeting.

Superintendent Dr. John Tackett emphasized that the district’s success is not measured by one test and all teachers are doing their best.

“We recognize every single teacher for excellence. Averages are fallacious. Accountability is an issue. It’s a good thing. We live in a glass house; we deal with public funds,” he said. “We will never count out any child. Their future is too uncertain. We are working to get better. Successful schools continue to improve and go higher.”

At Lonoke Primary School, the subpopulation of greatest concern in literacy is African American students. For math, it’s black, caucasian and economically disadvantaged students.

Numbers for the feeder school are the same as Lonoke Elementary School since students at the primary school do not take state exams. In literacy, 74.1 percent scored proficient or advanced while the goal was 78.4 percent. The goal for math was 77.5 percent and 83.3 percent scored proficient or advanced.

Principal Ross Moore said students struggle with vocabulary, comprehension of informational passages, problem solving and number sense.

The school is working to correct problems through three tiers of methods. Tier one is quality instruction by classroom teachers. Tier two is differentiation of instruction and/or small group instruction by teachers or others. Tier three is small group or one-on-one remediation by two certified interventionists that include a reading recovery specialist and six paraprofessionals and after-school tutoring. The fourth tier is special education services.

At Lonoke Elementary School, the goal for subpopulations of greatest concern — the economically disadvantaged students, disabled students and African-American males — was for 78.4 percent to score proficient or advanced and the result this year was 76 percent.

In math, 83.8 percent of economically disadvantaged students, black students and female students scored proficient or advanced and that exceeded the school’s goal of 77.5 percent.

The following areas require the most focus at the school: writing multiple choice, reading content, reading literary, geometry, measurement, number and operations and data analysis. Principal Holly Dewey explained that measurement means students are having problems with realizing what type of unit can be used to measure something, not with measuring things, and the school is addressing this by using real-world examples.

She said some of the techniques for improvement include differentiation of instruction in the classroom, small group instruction in math and literacy for third through fifth grades by special education teachers, READ 180 with a reading specialist teacher for fourth- and fifth-graders, title 1 and special education aides working with some students individually and a tutoring program.

Lonoke Middle School Principal Jeannie Holt said black sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders have difficulty with measurement. Sixth-graders also have problems with numbers and operations. Seventh-graders struggle with geometry and eighth-graders struggle with algebra.

Economically disadvantaged sixth-graders and eighth-graders have the same issues as the black subpopulation. Economically disadvantaged seventh-graders have difficulty with measurement and data analysis/probability.

Sixth-graders from both sub-populations have trouble with content passages while seventh- and eighth-graders struggle with literacy passages.

Holt said teachers use the Learning Institute progress reports to identify weaknesses and address them through small group or individual remediation. She said the information she discussed at the meeting is talked about during weekly literacy and math content meetings so that strategies can be refocused to target weaknesses.

As for Lonoke High School, literacy scores have consistently gone up over the past five years but there was a dramatic jump in the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on the end-of-course exam in that area a few years ago and the district is still in school improvement because it couldn’t sustain the jump.

In geometry, there was a slight dip last year and improvement in algebra has been up and down.

Some of the actions taken to address the scores are assessments in all areas, a literacy lab, ACTAAP test preparation using released materials and tutoring. The school also offers opportunities to achieving students through Pre Advancement Placement and Advanced Placement courses that can help them earn college credit.

Every school in the district is using consultants who make observations and provide feedback to teachers and administrators.

Board member Matt Boyle was surprised the district wasn’t meeting annual yearly progress goals. He said the schools need to offer more incentives to children.

“It takes a village to raise a child. We need ideas,” he added.