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District schools plan on ways to improve
Though principals in the Snoqualmie Valley School District make plans to improve their schools on a regular basis, the district school board this year formally approved those principals' plans for the first time.
"The school improvement plan isn't anything new; it was just a new way of doing it," said school board director Kim Horn. "I think Joel (Aune, district superintendent) was looking for a more formal approach for continued improvement at schools."
That formal approach asks each school to prepare a School Improvement Plan that addresses specific goals for the school and the students. The plans were approved by the district's Board of Directors on Jan. 12.
Horn said that the board approved the plans because each one showed data-driven research with specific and measurable goals.
"School improvement within schools is an essential element of improving student learning and achievement," said Don McConkey, assistant superintendent for instructional services. "Its a very specific process that leads a staff through a series of steps and looking at assessment, perceptual collected. Based on that, they're able to sort out those areas within the school they are doing well and areas that they've decided are areas of improvement."
The principals of each of the nine schools (Elementary: Fall City, Snoqualmie, North Bend, Opstad and Cascade View; Snoqualmie Middle School and Chief Kanim Middle School; and Mount Si High School and Two Rivers School) presented the outline versions of their detailed plans that chart improvement goals in order of importance, select activities for each goal and explore implementation of how the plans will be monitored.
Many of the goals involved preparedness for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) and increasing staff perception.
Principal Cori Pflug at Snoqualmie Elementary School noted that her school's goals were to improve students' writing skills, to improve fifth-grade science WASL scores, to improve perception of how often co-workers have the tools needed and to improve math WASL geometric sense scores.
"Everyone wants to set a standard that is high enough," Pflug said, noting that the balance is also making the standards obtainable.
There are about 320 students enrolled at Snoqualmie Elementary this year; last school year there were about 600.
Based on the 2005 fourth-grade WASL results for writing, 57 percent met or exceeded standards. Snoqualmie Elementary made a 2006 target goal of reaching 65 percent, 75 percent in 2007 and 87 percent in 2008.
Based on the 2005 science WASL scores for fifth grade, 42.4 percent of students met or exceeded standards. The three- to five-year goal is to improve student achievement in science by 5 percent a year.
The 2005 WASL math scores were at 38.9 percent in geometric sense, so Snoqualmie Elementary has a target goal of a 15 percent increase to 58.9 percent and a three-to-five year math goal of a 5 percent increase in scores.
The activities to align with the goals include reviewing state level expectations, creating timelines and grade-level action plans, continuing grade-specific training and providing additional workshops, as well as providing focused instruction in geometric sense and increase communication with parents for additional math support.
Additionally, the school intends to improve teacher perception from 51 percent in 2005 to a 2006 target goal of 70 percent. The three-to five-year goal is to raise the perception to 90 percent through repeated staff surveys, increased staff communication opportunities and trust-building activities.
"I feel like the process was really thorough and we had full participation by the staff and that's exciting," Pflug said. "A lot of [the WASL subjects] happen to be skills the students are going to need for the rest of their lives."
With the first year of school at Cascade View Elementary School almost finished, principal Tim Nootenboom said he looked forward to creating the School Improvement Plan.
"It's important that we get in alignment for expectations," he said. "Let's keep it narrow and let's keep it focused and let's try to get some things accomplished."
Since Cascade View does not have WASL scores from the previous year, Nootenboom said that he looked at the district WASL data and took the trend line of where the students were heading and aligned that with the 2014 state requirement that 100 percent of students pass the WASL, averaging the two numbers.
Cascade View's goals are to achieve 60 percent of students meeting the writing standard on the fourth-grade WASL, to gain staff, student and parent perception of the learning community at the school and to achieve 75 percent of students meeting math standards on the 2006 fourth-grade WASL.
This will be done by analyzing grade-level expectations, working on consistency of student work assessment, infusing grade-level prompts for periodic feedback, providing cross-grade level training and analyzing 2006 WASL data, along with developing and distributing parent and staff survey tools for feedback.
"Our goal is to have achievement on the WASL, but what we're really working on is the expectations," Nootenboom said. "Good assessment is a measure of good instruction and good curriculum."
At Chief Kanim Middle School, principal Kirk Dunckel said that the school will focus on writing, reading, math and staff perception.
"All of us intend to hit all these essential learning requirements," Dunckel said. "If you walk into the classroom, its not a WASL situation day in and day out; you're also getting your basic education."
Chief Kanim developed its percentages based on the 2005 seventh-grade WASL.
For writing, 77.6 percent of students passed the 2005 WASL. The one-to two-year goal is to have 85 percent passing, with a three-to five-year goal of increasing that number to 89 percent.
The 2005 WASL reading results noted that 83 percent of students passed. The three-year goal will be to have 88 percent of seventh-grade students to pass the reading by the 2008 WASL.
Seventy-two percent of seventh-grade students passed the math portion of the 2005 WASL. The one-to two-year goal is 75 percent and the three-to five-year goal is for 80 percent to pass.
Additionally, Chief Kanim intends to improve student learning through an increase in professional development staff training and collaboration.
Mount Si High School focused the assessments based on the seventh-grade scores of this year's sophomores.
Principal Randy Taylor said that the school will focus on having 90 percent of students pass the writing section of the WASL by 2007-2008 with the 2006 scores for this year's sophomores to increase by 10 percent from their seventh-grade scores (from 72.3 percent to 82.3 percent).
Also, the school will focus on increasing the percentage of students who pass the 10th-grade math WASL by 15 percent (from 54.9 percent in 2005 to 69.9 in 2008) beginning with an increase of 5 percent in 2006.
By 2008, all seniors statewide must pass the WASL in order to graduate.
There will also be a focus on improving and encouraging staff trust, collaboration and clear and shared focus by 30 percent to 67 percent in 2008.
"One thing that is nice about the School Improvement Plan is that it's all data-driven," Taylor said. "We want to be accountable."
Mount Si focused on writing and math because those were the two areas that had the lowest scores, Taylor said.
To address writing, the school has already adapted "chunk writing" (a color-coded writing structure), participated in workshops and is providing extra training for staff.
Math requirements for graduation are also changing, he noted. Students in the class of 2010 will have to complete at least algebra in order to graduate.
"We want to raise the bar for everyone," he added.
The entire school improvement plan outline for each school is available by request from the principal at each school. The plans will soon be available online on yet-t