School district focuses on proficiency, academic intervention

Friday, October 12, 2018

Alta-Aurelia schools are focusing on improving proficiency scores, administrators say, in addition to finding ways to implement effective assessments and interventions seamlessly from kindergarten through high school.

Elementary principal Stacy Mueller said that the reading proficiency score at Alta Elementary is only at 58 percent. “We’re looking to get that to 83 percent in the future, but a realistic goal building-wide is 70 percent,” Mueller said. “We need to look at the end number, not the beginning.”

The FastBridge reading assessment will categorize students who are either at risk or substantially at risk to highlight those who may need some extra attention to reach proficiency, with those substantially at risk getting a triple or quadruple dose of help, she said.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to get that number up to 83 [percent]—that’s our long-term goal.”

Forefront, the math intervention assessment given in September, January and May, currently pegs the elementary school at 74 percent proficiency. Mueller says the school is also aiming for 83 percent proficiency in math by May’s assessments.

Those at risk are having regular “success meetings” with staff, in addition to intervention times, to look at which skills can be improved, one at a time.

Middle school principal Jeannie Henningsen echoed similar processes and goals for middle school students. Aurelia Middle School is just shy of 75 percent proficiency for reading and 78 percent for math, with the same goal of 83 percent by the end of the year.

Star Reading assessments used by the middle school further break down proficiency into 46 different scales to pinpoint specific problems students are facing, such as as author’s purpose or inferencing.

“I’m hearing great things, good things are happening,” Henningsen said of the intervention system in place. “We want [this process] to be systemic.”

High school principal Tom Ryherd said the high school is working on improving the screening for its students, of which there is currently not much in place for intervention. They will start using Star assessments for math and reading begining mid-school year to add another data point for achievement analysis. Another data point will be added with a standards assessment, in progress to begin next year.

“We’re trying to show a systemic approach,” Ryherd said.

With no other schools to model it after, administrators at Alta-Aurelia are attempting to spearhead a systemic monitoring and intervention system that will follow students from elementary through high school.

Ryherd said the system being constructed, once in place, will be able to monitor high school students through all four years, allowing intervention to happen early to avoid proficiency issues with students as they close in on graduation. The program being piloted is starting small this year with just the freshman class as the kinks are worked out.

“We’re hoping to provide enough information so you’re not selecting an arbitrary number,” for achievement goals, Ryherd said. “It’s going to be something you’re proud of.”

Other changes at the high school include more structure with the free courses students can take from Iowa Central for college credit. The new changes implement deadlines within courses, structuring the work to prevent procrastination.

Total enrollment for the Alta-Aurelia Community School District is up 21.9 students. The count certification date for the district is October 15.