Just before Christmas break, the Indiana Department of Education released letter grades for public schools. Wawasee Middle School was given an F grade and that meant the school was placed in priority status and had to submit a student achievement plan to IDOE by Feb. 1.
During Tuesday evening’s regular monthly meeting of the Wawasee school board in Syracuse, a public hearing was held on the student achievement plan for WMS. There were no public comments, but the plan was presented by principal Susan Mishler to the school board and others in attendance, including a few WMS teachers.
Mishler noted three key concerns are being focused on to include the percentage of students who passed the English/language arts portion of ISTEP+ and the percentage of the growth rate compared to the previous year for students testing in both math and English/language arts. WMS had a high number of students showing a low growth rate, though it was noted some students with higher scores have less room to grow.
A major goal is to have at least 70 percent of students pass English/language arts in ISTEP+. Mishler said the school must comply with eight “turnaround principles” as determined by IDOE. Those include school leadership, school climate and culture, effective instruction, curriculum, assessment and intervention system, effective staffing practices, enabling effective use of data, effective use of time and effective family and community management.
Tom Dickerson has been named student services coordinator for the school to relieve some of the pressure on other administrators. Student led conferences will continue to be held and more focus will be placed on what teacher classrooms look like from “bell to bell.”
A remedial language arts lab has been implemented and Elizabeth Long will be a temporary seventh grade social studies teacher for the remainder of the school year. More focus is also being placed on how teachers use data in their classrooms everyday and teams of teachers will work together.
Testing results are being sent home with report cards and Facebook and email are being used more to communicate with parents and the community. Dr. Bob Cockburn, data coordinator for the school corporation, gave a report and said NWEA testing results in language arts, reading and math from the fall of 2013 to the winter of 2014 have shown growth in all three areas. Mishler said she is encouraged by the NWEA results and believes “we are on the right track.”
Mike Wilson, school board member, said he does not believe WMS is “an F school and does not have F teachers,” but the letter grade assigned by the state has forced a plan to be put in place that he feels will help the school.