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Significant gains in student improvement

October 12, 2011
By Dr. Susan Pecinovsky , Times-Republican

It is that time of year again: Iowa schools are receiving notification of their status as a School In Need of Assistance (SINA) or District In Need of Assistance (DINA).

In Marshalltown Community Schools there is much to celebrate this year. We are seeing significant gains in student performance in math. The new elementary math program is a key contributor to this success. All buildings met the student participation targets for testing, attendance and graduation. These are increases from previous years.

Three of our elementary buildings have gone into "delay" status as a result of meeting proficiency in reading, math or both; they are Rogers Elementary, Franklin Elementary and Anson Elementary.

A school is labeled SINA if students are not proficient in reading and/or mathematics for grades 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12, if you fall below 95 percent student participation in the testing, below 95 percent for grades K-8 attendance or a 95 percent graduation rate for two consecutive years. The Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and the Iowa Tests of Educational Development define proficiency as students who achieve the 41st percentile as measured.

SINA buildings are required to receive outside technical assistance to support their improvement efforts. The District has embraced this school improvement process due to its strong research-based and results-based approach to student performance. Schools that have implemented this process have demonstrated the ability to better prepare students for third grade and to exceed the expected gains in student performance between third and fourth grade.

A district is labeled DINA if it doesn't meet the state participation goals, attendance and graduation goals or proficiency goals for two consecutive years in all three grade level spans (3-5, 6-9 and 10-11). For the last three years, the target for student proficiency has been about 74 percent of students at or above the 41st percentile. For 2011, the target for proficiency is 82 percent with the expectation that 100 percent of students will be proficient by 2014.

Change may be coming to the No Child Left Behind legislation. The U.S. Department of Education has offered state educational agencies an opportunity to request a waiver. The intent is to provide states increased flexibility to better focus on improving student learning and increasing the quality of instruction in exchange for a rigorous and comprehensive state-developed plan. The plan will improve educational outcomes for all students, narrow the achievement gaps, increase the opportunity for all students to learn and improve the quality of instruction.

Marshalltown Schools will continue to focus on improved instructional practices through the development of common units for instruction, strategies that support all students having access to the curriculum, and the use of data to make informed decisions and improved student results.


Dr. Susan Pecinovsky is Associate Superintendent for Student Achievement for Marshalltown Community School District.



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