Germantown principals introduce improvement plan

Elementary leaders discuss goals to close achievement gaps by 2014

Nov. 27, 2012

Germantown - The four elementary school principals in the Germantown School District have teamed up to close student achievement gaps.

Each elementary school identified different subgroups of students who are struggling more than others in the new Elementary School Improvement Plan, which was presented to the School Board on Monday. Each school made individual goals in order to close achievement gaps by 2014.

MacArthur Elementary has the largest achievement gap out of all four schools seen in two subgroups, Principal Adrienne Schneider said. MacArthur, a Title I school, found that students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged children have an achievement gap in reading.

"We are a high achieving district and we know that, but when we dig deeper, we realize there is a lot of work to be done," Schneider said.

The goal for MacArthur teachers is to close the achievement gap by reducing the number of students who receive intensive reading intervention from 21 percent to 10 percent. This will be accomplished through the implementation of research-based intervention strategies used four to five days every week.

These gaps are identified using different assessments including the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam and elementary school specific report cards. The principals compiled the data into visual charts to show the achievement gaps.

"We introduced the concept of a data wall, which puts all the data in a visual way, looks at all students and puts it in a visual format so you can see progress at one time," County Line Elementary Principal Cathy Schultz said.

Teachers began discussing the improvement plan in June during the district leadership retreat. In August, representatives from the elementary schools met to refine the plan by looking at data through the lens of the state's No Child Left Behind waiver and past district goals and initiatives.

"As leaders, we looked at our data through a new lens," Schultz said. "We wanted to do something different so we invited key members of leadership and changed from looking at data to instructional leadership and closing the achievement gap."

The goals will be reassessed every six weeks.

Amy Belle Elementary staff plans to reduce the number of kindergarten and first-grade students who need intensive intervention from 19 percent to 8 percent by working with students individually.

"We each have a very individual goal for our buildings and in order for us to close the achievement gap, which was identified in our (state) report card, it had to be about individual students so our goals look different so we make sure we are personalizing the learning in all of our buildings," said Amy Belle Principal Maria Kucharski, who is also serving as Director of Teaching and Learning.

Students in need of early intervention will be worked with every day. Every six weeks, the plan will be reassessed as teachers monitor the progress of students.

Amy Belle is two students away from becoming a Title I school, which is based on free and reduced lunch. Amy Belle increased from having 10 percent of students receiving free and reduced lunches to about 17 percent.

"That's a huge shift Amy Belle is seeing and how the recession has hit our students and students' families," Kucharski said. "Now, we can work with students and families to help support learning needs."

County Line Elementary identified an achievement gap in students with disabilities. The goal is for students with special needs to make a year's worth of growth in the area of reading for the 2012-13 school year.

Rockfield Elementary is also focusing on students with disabilities this year. According to district documents, three of four first grade students, who are more than a year behind, will meet grade level exit benchmarks this year.

"Being a small school we fly under the radar with those numbers, so we really had to look at our (data) wall and where our students are and where they need to be," Rockfield Elementary Principal Lynn Bub said.

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