In front of around 40 people, Manawa School Districts administrators explained the “Meets Few Expectations” rating the district received on its School Report Card — and what it plans to do about it.
District Administrator Ed Dombrowski wasted little time in telling those gathered that, “This is important.”
He pointed out how the district administrator, high school principal and elementary school principal positions have seen plenty of turnover during the last five to seven years.
“These teachers have only been told this is what you teach,” Dombrowski said. “No blame is to be placed on anybody. We want to keep this as positive as we can.”
One of the hot topics revolved around testing in the district.
A parent in attendance said her daughter told her that she has to take so many tests that she just starts guessing at the answers.
To help combat that, Karl Morrin, Little Wolf High School principal, said the district is stressing to students the importance of the tests. How some tests are given will also be changing. For example, the Masonic Lodge will be used on occasion for test taking. Tests will be broken up, with an entire subject like reading not being taken all at one time.
Tammy Sjoberg, Manawa Elementary School principal, said the teachers met with students one-on-one and shared the test data with them.
“Most of the students, they were real surprised,” Sjoberg told the crowd. “They had never seen their scores before.”
Sjoberg shared an example of one student who had tested a grade level ahead, but was behind on the STAR tests. In the one-on-one meeting, the student admitted to not trying on STAR testing.
Response to Intervention
A large portion of the forum was spent discussing the district’s Response to Intervention (RTI) initiative.
“If a student is struggling in a class, teachers want to start doing an intervention to help that kid,” Morrin said.
RTI time is currently built into the class schedule each day at the high school, Morrin said.
“What we have is actually a little more elaborate than a lot of schools,” he said.
Sjoberg said implementation of RTI is beginning at the elementary school. Each teacher has RTI time set aside each day.
A parent asked what is being done for the gifted and talented students in the district.
Morrin said the district is trying to get all students in the district to improve.
District issues and plans
Dombrowski spent the final portion of the forum sharing the district’s plan to improve student achievement.
He said a CESA 6 audit showed that the district wasn’t teaching reading correctly.
“We’re not saying our teachers don’t know how to teach, don’t get me wrong,” Dombrowski said. “But there’s a way we have to deliver the information that’s different than what we’re doing. We have to make changes in our deliveries and we have to get kids to think more.”
The district is going to start teaching to the test, Dombrowski said. It will implement pre-tests.
“We have to do that, but again, we have to know how to do that,” Dombrowski said.
Writing is also an issue in the district.
“We found out it’s a lost art here,” Dombowski said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you folks. We have forgotten how to write here.”
Dombrowski said the district found out it wasn’t properly using the Build Your Own Curriculum program.
The district is developing Student Learning Objectives (SLO), Dombrowski said. The current goal is for all students to increase their level in reading and math by 2.5. The principal at each building determines what the building goal is.
The district is also implementing a Teacher Performance Evaluation System (TPES).
“It’s based on fixed standards that each teacher has to meet,” Dombrowski said. “… It’s going to measure and hold teachers more accountable for what they do in the classroom.”
The district is also implementing a School Administrator Performance Evaluation System (SAPES).
Dombrowski said there also has to be a culture change.
“We have to get our teachers to sit and think about what is it that is no longer necessary to be able to get our students to where they need to be. How simple is that. But that’s a culture change,” Dombrowski said.
To help the district solve some of these issues, representatives from the district are visiting and observing at schools that received good scores on their School Report Card.
There will be an emphasis on RTI.
Dombrowski also emphasized that there has to be accountability in the district, and the school board has to keep everyone accountable.
“You have to hold us accountable. We have to look at our staff. We have to change the culture. We have to ask them to make that sacrifice and look within themselves and say, ‘What do I need to do differently to be able to get the best results for our children,’” Dombrowski said.
Students also have to be held accountable, he said.
Accountability also falls on the parents.
“I need you to engage with us, more so than you’ve ever done before,” Dombrowski said. “You need to be part of what’s happening here.”