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ACGC in west central Minnesota digs into data in effort to close gaps

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

GROVE CITY -- Mining and analyzing data from students' test scores could be the key to formulating a plan to improve gaps in education at the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City Elementary School in Atwater.

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Under the state's new Multiple Measurement Rating system, the school, formerly Atwater North Elementary, is one of 42 schools among the 5 percent most persistently low-performing schools in the state, placing it in a group called Priority Schools.

At its meeting Monday, the ACGC School Board heard an update on work the district's leadership team is doing to conduct a needs assessment and prepare a three-year improvement plan and grant application that must be submitted to the state by July 30.

The team consists of representatives from five existing committees, including technology, professional development, teacher observation, pre-kindergarten literacy and data mining.

Having these "five powerhouse committees" already in place puts ACGC ahead of the planning game, said Superintendent Sherri Broderius.

"We are in the information gathering stage," she said, adding that ACGC has had a "robust" data mining committee in place for five years that has been digging and analyzing test score data for clues about improving education in the district.

She said, for example, data miners may discover that different "strands" in the state math test, like spatial sense and measurement, may show typically low scores for an entire grade level, which could help the district strengthen curriculum or teaching methods in that area.

The test results for ACGC are interesting because although the elementary school in Atwater was on the bottom end, the elementary school in Cosmos was labeled a Reward School for being a Title I school with high achievement.

Title I refers to federal funding granted to schools to improve the academics of disadvantaged students, such as children in high-poverty schools or with limited English proficiency.

Because of budget and enrollment issues, the Cosmos elementary school is closing and all elementary students will go to the Atwater school this fall.

But Broderius cautioned that test scores don't always reveal the full story behind the numbers.

Broderius said, for example, the data can be pinpointed to individual students, like one ACGC student who had a consistent history of exceeding in the state tests -- except for one year.

While it may be easy to assume the teacher was to blame for that one-year dip in the student's performance, Broderius said teachers in the small district knew the test was administered just a few days after a significant event in that student's family.

"That's how well we know our students," she said.

Instead of "jumping to conclusions" for failing test scores, Broderius said schools need to "look deeper" for causes and find solid solutions.

One of those solutions may be professional development for teachers.

When ACGC was in statutory operating debt -- spending beyond levels allowed by the state -- the state allowed the district to use mandated professional development funds instead to balance the budget. While that helped the financial equation, teachers did not receive regular training updates for several years.

Because of the Priority School status now applied to the Atwater school, the district is eligible for grant money that could be used to close the educational gap.

"We need to look at this as a great opportunity to really get some in-depth professional development and in-depth training for teachers. That's something that went away in (statutory operating debt)," said Broderius. "Now we have the opportunity to make up for that."

Broderius said the school board will receive monthly updates on progress to create and implement a plan. She said the process is resulting in valuable dialogue and debate about the philosophy and "new world view of education."

In other action this week the board:

n Approved the contracts for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years for 10 non-union employees, including school administrators, business office personnel, community education director, human resources director, food service coordinator and school nurse for an approximate 2.5 percent salary increase for each year. The salary for Broderius, who serves as superintendent and principal is $101,595 for the first year and $104,135 the second year. The salary for Principal Kodi Goracke is $78,027 this year, with no change for 2013-14.

n Accepted the resignations of Judy Sumption, who's been an elementary special education teacher for more than 30 years, Lexi Cumings, who's been an elementary teacher for 20 years, and Nadine Hoag, a Title I paraprofessional for 21 years.

n Approved tenure for five teachers.

n Heard concerns from two parents from Cosmos about the busing routes. The board approved a contract with Dayton Bus company, but the transportation committee is looking at alternatives for shortening the bus routes.

-0-

GROVE CITY -- Mining and analyzing data from students' test scores could be the key to formulating a plan to improve gaps in education at the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City Elementary School in Atwater.

Under the state's new Multiple Measurement Rating system, the school, formerly Atwater North Elementary, is one of 42 schools among the 5 percent most persistently low-performing schools in the state, placing it in a group called Priority Schools.

At its meeting Monday, the ACGC School Board heard an update on work the district's leadership team is doing to conduct a needs assessment and prepare a three-year improvement plan and grant application that must be submitted to the state by July 30.

The team consists of representatives from five existing committees, including technology, professional development, teacher observation, pre-kindergarten literacy and data mining.

Having these "five powerhouse committees" already in place puts ACGC ahead of the planning game, said Superintendent Sherri Broderius.

"We are in the information gathering stage," she said, adding that ACGC has had a "robust" data mining committee in place for five years that has been digging and analyzing test score data for clues about improving education in the district.

She said, for example, data miners may discover that different "strands" in the state math test, like spatial sense and measurement, may show typically low scores for an entire grade level, which could help the district strengthen curriculum or teaching methods in that area.

The test results for ACGC are interesting because although the elementary school in Atwater was on the bottom end, the elementary school in Cosmos was labeled a Reward School for being a Title I school with high achievement.

Title I refers to federal funding granted to schools to improve the academics of disadvantaged students, such as children in high-poverty schools or with limited English proficiency.

Because of budget and enrollment issues, the Cosmos elementary school is closing and all elementary students will go to the Atwater school this fall.

But Broderius cautioned that test scores don't always reveal the full story behind the numbers.

Broderius said, for example, the data can be pinpointed to individual students, like one ACGC student who had a consistent history of exceeding in the state tests -- except for one year.

While it may be easy to assume the teacher was to blame for that one-year dip in the student's performance, Broderius said teachers in the small district knew the test was administered just a few days after a significant event in that student's family.

"That's how well we know our students," she said.

Instead of "jumping to conclusions" for failing test scores, Broderius said schools need to "look deeper" for causes and find solid solutions.

One of those solutions may be professional development for teachers.

When ACGC was in statutory operating debt -- spending beyond levels allowed by the state -- the state allowed the district to use mandated professional development funds instead to balance the budget. While that helped the financial equation, teachers did not receive regular training updates for several years.

Because of the Priority School status now applied to the Atwater school, the district is eligible for grant money that could be used to close the educational gap.

"We need to look at this as a great opportunity to really get some in-depth professional development and in-depth training for teachers. That's something that went away in (statutory operating debt)," said Broderius. "Now we have the opportunity to make up for that."

Broderius said the school board will receive monthly updates on progress to create and implement a plan. She said the process is resulting in valuable dialogue and debate about the philosophy and "new world view of education."

In other action this week the board:

- Approved the contracts for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years for 10 non-union employees, including school administrators, business office personnel, community education director, human resources director, food service coordinator and school nurse for an approximate 2.5 percent salary increase for each year. The salary for Broderius, who serves as superintendent and principal is $101,595 for the first year and $104,135 the second year. The salary for Principal Kodi Goracke is $78,027 this year, with no change for 2013-14.

- Accepted the resignations of Judy Sumption, who's been an elementary special education teacher for more than 30 years, Lexi Cumings, who's been an elementary teacher for 20 years, and Nadine Hoag, a Title I paraprofessional for 21 years.

- Approved tenure for five teachers.

- Heard concerns from two parents from Cosmos about the busing routes. The board approved a contract with Dayton Bus company, but the transportation committee is looking at alternatives for shortening the bus routes.

-0-

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