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District 153 puts focus on helping every student meet success

Test score results show students in Homewood District 153 generally meeting and exceeding anticipated student outcomes.

That’s good, says Superintendent Dale Mitchell, but the district’s strategy is to take those numbers and use them to improve the growth of student learning.

Under the state’s Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA), at least 30 percent of a classroom teacher’s job performance must be based on student outcomes.  District 153’s Teacher Evaluation Committee agreed that 30 percent of the evaluation ratio should be based on performance and 70 percent on classroom instruction.

Half the committee is comprised of teachers and administrators make up the other half.

Last year, District 153 went a step further in the assessment. The district hired Midwest Analytics (MA) to take the test scores used for teacher evaluation and graph them to show just how much progress students are making.

“The key is the growth, and (with) the kids that aren’t showing growth we ask ‘What’s going on? What’s their other testing looking like?’” said Mitchell.

In the 2015-16 school year, Midwest Analytics started assessing individual student grades, the yearly state PARCC scores and district data gathered through STAR testing in fall, winter and spring. Tests record student work in language arts and math.

“The grades are showing normal growth,” MA partner David Kush told the board at its Sept. 19 meeting. The district also shows students working well above their grade levels.

For District 153, the MA data is “value-added for using all the scores for the students as opposed to the state (teacher evaluation) model that is just for select student testing,” said Kathy Scheaflein, director of curriculum.

District 153 wants to give special attention to students who aren’t showing strong growth, and the MA numbers are helping pinpoint how to answer teachers’ concerns.

“We’re using this data because we have to (for PERA), but now let’s take it to the next step and say let’s dig into these numbers,” Schaeflein said. “I can say who are the kids that are here (at the low end) and zone in on them and give them Response To Intervention (RTI) help and see if their growth has changed.” 

By being able to pinpoint which students need more help, the district can begin RTI help early. The data also gives the district a picture of how interventions or curriculum changes benefit students, and it offers a look down the road at how well the James Hart School curriculum prepares students for algebra and biology classes at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

District 153 has an activities period as part of its curriculum. This gives all students a chance to spend time on something other than the structured classroom work.

For some, the period is used for interventions with specialists in reading and math. For other students, the period offers an opportunity to enjoy a special activity or advanced reading program.

Mitchell said Response to Intervention is very expensive, but District 153 numbers show that it works.

“They all have a chance to reach their potential. Sink or swim sounds good if you have a high-flying kid, but that’s not what’s happening in a classroom,” he noted.

Intervention early that puts kids in small groups, sometimes with a ratio of 10 students to one specialist “is worth it for these kids,” Mitchell said.

District-wide there were two or three specialists 10 years ago, the superintendent recalled. Today there are three specialists at each of the district’s three schools.



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