Teachers, administrators and students at Prairie City Elementary are marking one in the win column on its 2017 Iowa School Report Card.
According to data released in December by the Iowa Department of Education, PCE students’ proficiency level in core subjects is now exceeding the state government standard of 80 percent, hitting 81 percent proficient in the measure. This moves the school from an overall ranking of “needs improvement” to “acceptable.”
These designations are released annually by the state with data gathered by the Iowa Assessments standardized tests, taken in February. Iowa public school students grades 3-11 take the assessments annually to determine if they have reached grade level standards in mathematics and reading.
The DOE reports 37 percent of Iowa schools are in the “acceptable” range for 2017, 17 percent fall in the “need improvement” ranking and 5 percent are considered a “priority” school for intervention. The data shows 28 percent of schools are “commendable,” 11 percent “high performing” and 2 percent are ranked “exceptional.”
Added to student proficiency, the overall ranking is a combination of factors including whether free or reduced lunch students, children with individualized education programs and English Language Learners are “closing the gap” in proficiency with traditional students; college and career ready growth; annual expected growth; attendance; and the school’s staff retention.
PCE’s big jump this year was in student proficiency, the remainder of the elementary school’s stats remained the same from 2016 to 2017, including a 96.5 percent student attendance rate 86.2 staff retention.
One area where PCE Principal Stephanie Ver Helst and PCM superintendent Brad Jermeland see the most promise is the stability in closing the gap. Jermeland attributes this to a focus on teacher interventions for IEP and FRL students. Interventionists take these students aside for one-on-one teaching when testing and grade trends show they need extra attention in a particular core area.
“We’re closing the gap and that goes to the work Mrs. Ver Helst and her staff did with low social economic students with core subjects in the classroom and second and third tier subjects,” Jermeland said.
Ver Helst said she went to each third, fourth and fifth-grade classroom during the week of the Iowa Assessments to address students. As an incentive for what could be a stressful testing week, the PCE principal offered a pop and popcorn party as an incentive to keep the week a little lighter.
“The message given was that the Iowa Assessments are designed to give information to the principal and teachers about what they need to do differently, or better, in order to make sure the students are learning and make changes to how we teach,” Ver Helst said. “There is no reason to put undue stress on students during the week of testing, so students were asked to show what they do best.”
PCM High School scored a “commendable” rating in this year’s report card, with 91.6 percent of students proficient. This is a slight drop from 2016 when the school was ranked as “high performing.” PCM Middle School dropped slightly from commendable to acceptable, marked by a slight 84.2 to 82.9 percent dip in student proficiency and a 53.9 percent to 42 percent decline in closing the gap.
Monroe Elementary School also saw a drop in ranking from 2016 to 2017, going from acceptable to needs improvement. According to the report card, overall student proficiency improved at ME from 78.9 percent to 79.2 percent, but the drop was in closing the gap for FRL, IEP and EEL students.
Traditional students at ME were tested at 91.1 percent proficient in 2017 compared to 51.6 percent in the school’s FRL/IEP and ELL population. This comes out to a 39.5 percent achievement gap. In 2016 there was a 13.5 percent achievement gap between these two student demographics. According to the state of Iowa, 31 ME’s students are considered FRL, IEP and/or ELL.
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