The grades are in for Henry County schools
BY BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Area K-12 school district students received their (first semester) report cards a few weeks ago, about the same time Iowa schools were receiving their report cards from the Iowa Department of Education (DOE).
Most area schools earned roughly the same marks on the 2016 card as they did in 2015.
Winfield-Mt. Union was an exception, gaining commendable ratings for both the elementary and junior-senior high schools. It should be noted that individual schools or attendance centers and not school districts were “graded.”
Jeff Maeder, superintendent of the Winfield-Mt. Union School District, said the staff, students and everyone associated with the district can take pride in the grades.
“Obviously, whenever you receive positive news, you feel pretty good about yourself. We’re proud,” he began. “It was good to see an increase. Our staff works very hard and addresses student issues that get in the way of learning. We have a close-knit staff that care about each other and the students. I think the improvement was due to a lot of things. Technology is an important part of our education, and we are trying to increase that all the time.”
Iowa’s School Report Card (SRC) is comprised of multiple measures, which are combined to determine an overall rating. When the measures are tabulated, the total puts a school in one of six performance categories — exceptional, high performing, commendable, acceptable, needs improvement and priority.
The eight measures included in the SRC are academic proficiency; closing the achievement gap; annual growth; college and career-ready growth; on track for college readiness; graduation rate (high schools only); average daily attendance; and staff retention.
Of the eight measures included in the SRC, all but one is a percentage that ranges from 0 to 100. For example, an elementary school, which has an annual growth rate of 60 percent, has a majority of students making year-to-year progress in reading and math. In this example, the natural score of 60 percent would be used in the calculation to determine the score for the measure. This is important, the DOE says because any improvement in the measure in future years would be reflected in an increase in the overall score for the school.
Each of the eight measures on the card is weighted. Academic proficiency and closing the achievement gap have the highest weighting, each representing over 20 percent of a school’s total score. College and career-ready growth, annual expected growth, college and career readiness and graduation rate (for high schools) all factor over 10 percent of the final grade. Attendance and staff retention have a weighting ranging from 5.6 to 7.1 percent, depending on the school (i.e. high school, middle school or elementary school).
The school report card has been around for two years and Maeder said he likes the improvements made to the card. “I think it is better than what they had in the past. In the past, they mainly looked at test scores, but now they look at more factors, such as college readiness, which I think is most important.”
DOE officials say the school report card is the key product of the comprehensive education reform legislation adopted by the Iowa Legislature in 2013. The legislation, House File 215, directed the DOE to develop a process for evaluating the performance of each school on certain measures and to “arrive at an overall school performance grade and report card” that is posted on the department’s website.
Mt. Pleasant schools’ 2016 rankings mirrored their 2015 standing. Lincoln and Salem Elementary schools led the way with commendable status; Harlan Elementary and the high school each settled in at acceptable; and Van Allen Elementary and the middle school were at need improvement.
Superintendent John Henriksen of Mt. Pleasant, said the data is definitely helpful, but should not be taken as gospel. “What you have to remember is that it is based on one assessment — the Iowa Assessment, which is taken four days in late February (which replaced the Iowa Test of Education Development and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills). While you have to pay attention to the data, I don’t think it tells the whole story; it is a snapshot (of the education we offer).”
Henriksen said the SRC should give the school district guidance on what to do “structurally and with our curriculum. Much of it is based on scoring in reading and math. We should consider those two areas as viable and coherent curriculum that is going to get our students to levels of acceptability.”
Asked which two measures of the test he feels are most important, Henriksen opted for proficiency and college and career readiness.
He said that while test results can make a school and its staff proud, that is not what’s important. “It’s not about feeling good but serving kids. We will keep working.”
Before breaking down the rankings for the county schools, following is an explanation of each of the measuring sticks used in compiling the scorecard.
Proficiency — the percentage of students scoring proficient or better on reading and mathematics assessments.
Closing the achievement gap — a measure that reflects a statewide goal of narrowing the gap in achievement for students with disabilities, students who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals and English Language Learners.
College and career-ready growth is the percentage of students who are on a trajectory to be college and career ready by the end of high school. The growth measure sets a rigorous and attainable expectation that all students will make progress each year toward college and career readiness. A composite is created using reading and mathematics growth scores the prior two years to provide a stable view of the percent of students growing college and career readiness.
Annual expected growth and college and career readiness measures the proportion of students who meet milestones in reading and mathematics that predict higher probability of post-secondary success. Results from the prior two years are used to create a stable view of college and career-ready growth. The annual growth expected growth metric works hand in hand with college and career-ready growth to ensure students are making progress year to year to reach a level of performance, which predicts probable post-secondary success.
Graduation rate, attendance and staff retention — the final three measures — are self-explanatory.
A survey of Iowa parents regarding parent involvement will be distributed by the DOE statewide this year and eventually will become a measure on SRC as required by law.
Following, in order, are the composite, proficiency, closing the achievement gap, and college and career readiness scores of area schools. College and career readiness is not measured at elementary schools.
Harlan Elementary — composite, 61.1; proficiency, 79.8; college and career-ready growth, 43.9.
Lincoln Elementary — composite, 72.2; proficiency; 88.7; college and career-ready growth, 52.2
High school — composite, 64.5; proficiency, 87.3; college and career-ready growth, 28.6; college and career readiness, 51.8.
Middle school — composite, 56.7; proficiency, 76.2; college and career-ready growth, 43.6; college and career readiness, 34.4.
Salem Elementary — composite, 70.4; proficiency, 88.6; college and career-ready growth, 50.
Van Allen Elementary — composite, 56.8; proficiency, 63.7; college and career-ready growth, 40.7.
Clark Elementary — composite, 69.5; proficiency, 85.3; college and career-ready growth, 58.1.
Junior/senior high school — composite, 63.2; proficiency, 80.8; college and career-ready growth, 40; college and career readiness, 33.4
Crawfordsville Elementary — composite, 62.6; proficiency, 77.7; college and career-ready growth, 45.1.
Junior/senior high school — composite, 64.3; proficiency, 83.3; college and career-ready growth, 42.9; college and career readiness — 41.7.
W-MU Elementary — composite, 68.4; proficiency, 79.2; college and career-ready growth, 49.
Junior/senior high school — composite, 66.2; proficiency, 77.4; college and career-ready growth, 34.8; college and career readiness, 35.8.
It should be stressed that the school report card is one important measure of education, but just one measure. “The Iowa School Report Card is an effort to provide meaningful information in a way that is easy to access and understand,” DOE Director Ryan Wise said. “While this resource can help school improvement efforts locally and statewide, data and ratings do not tell the whole story, and I encourage Iowans to connect with their community schools to learn more.”
“We are proud of our scores,” said W-MU’s Maeder, “but our work is not done. We’re always working to improve.
The Iowa School Report Card is available at www.educateiowa.gov/schoolreportcard.