From Wrangell School Superintendent Rich Rhodes Update for Wrangell Public Schools
Secretaries and Administrators returned to work August 5. Teachers will return for in-service training on August 19 -20. August 21 will be a teacher work day and students will return to school on Thursday, August 22nd.
The State has tasked the school district with adopting and implementing the New Alaska State Standards. It’s a pretty rigorous adoption. An example is kindergarten students were required to count to 20. Starting this year, by the end of the year, kindergarten students will be required to count to 200. Not only that, but they will need to be able to do so by 2s and 5s. Besides the rigor of mathematics, Language Art programs will see some significant changes.
You will see an increase of students reading non-fiction and informational texts. Our new requirement is that students will spend 50% of their reading time on material other than fiction.
The most difficult issue is how to pay for more materials. With the adoption of the new Alaska State Standards, the State of Alaska is requiring Alaska schools to convert to a new accountability system. This new state testing will be using a system called Smarter Balanced. The new assessments will be given by computer and require performance tasks at all levels.
“Performance tasks ask students to research and analyze information, weigh evidence, and solve problems relevant to the real world, allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in an authentic way,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University and senior research advisor for Smarter Balanced. “The Smarter Balanced assessment system uses performance tasks to measure skills valued by higher education and the workplace—critical thinking, problem solving, and communication—that are not adequately assessed by most statewide assessments today.”
Wrangell Public Schools is required to adopt a new teacher evaluation tool 20% based on test scores working up to 50% based on test scores by 2017. The evaluation tool requirement on test scores is not an issue for Wrangell Public Schools. Wrangell consistently has one of the highest sets of test scores in the state. The teachers, parents and administrators will be working this year to create a new evaluation tool. This tool is required by the State to be implemented by 2015/2016.
The three initiatives were all driven by the No Child Left Behind requirement that all students would become proficient by 2014. Wrangell Public Schools has just about accomplished that. In 3rd grade 95% of the students are proficient or advanced in Reading/Language Arts while 95% are proficient or advanced in Mathematics. In 7th and 8th grade 100% of the students are proficient or advanced in English/Language Arts and 91% proficient or advanced in Mathematics in both 7th and 8th grade. In 10th grade 95% are proficient in English/Language Arts and 95% are proficient or advanced in Mathematics.
The new assessment model is just being released by the State of Alaska. The program is based on Adequate Yearly Progress and ranks all schools in the state by a star rating of 1 – 5. The ranking is primarily based on English/Language Arts, Mathematics and Writing to make up student achievement. The second category is school progress and is based on different sub groups making adequate gains. The third category is attendance.
We definitely have our hands full with all the new changes. I am pleased with the effort and rigor the staff have shown in moving towards full implementation.
I am concerned about the attendance category. I tried to explain to the State Assessment Coordinator that many of our students work on fishing boats in late spring and late fall. Families travel for a little rest and relaxation after a long hard successful fishing season and our cultural values stress the importance of children spending time at fish camp and hunting camps as well as quality family time. With only an 89% attendance rate at our elementary school we dropped out of a 5 star rating. I argued vigorously that family time is important in the education process as well, but the concern is that kids need to be in school as much as possible to keep up with their peers as well as build concepts that are necessary to reach high performance standards. What it means is we will have to ask that students stay in school as much as possible and we are going to have to ask parents to try to help us by planning accordingly.