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Board begins setting goals for 2010-11 school year

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Superintendent suggests goals, board will implement at March 25 meeting

By Todd Martin

With new guidelines and strategies still on the way and CATS testing on the way out, the goals that the Shelby County Board of Education sets for the upcoming school year could be even more important than usual.

Senate Bill 1 passed through state legislature last year and changed the landscape by requiring schools to have fewer but deeper standards. And earlier this year, Kentucky signed on with 47 other states to adopt a new set of Common Core State Standards that align the states together, making the data collected comparable.

"These new standards are agreed upon and shared with a majority of the states and will give us national benchmarks for comparison," SCPS Superintendent James Neihof said.

With that in mind, Shelby County would need to rely more on its own standards than any other next year as transition looms for the 2011-12 school year.

Neihof presented the board with a set of goals at last week's meeting, and the board will review those before proposing changes and adopting its 2010 goals, which will become the benchmarks for Neihof's evaluation for the 2010-11 school year.

The goals align with the school system's 5 Main Things: 1. Curriculum, 2. Instructional Norms, 3. Professional Learning Communities, 4. Interventions and 5. Enrichment.

Curriculum

Under the first section, Neihof and the board must wait until the standards are set and adopted, but that should be sometime this spring. From there the goal is to have completed curriculum map reflecting those new standards by April 2011.

Based on SB1 and the Common Core State Standards coming out, Neihof said Shelby County's schools should have a better focus.

"This will allow us to 'cover' less material and to ensure that students have a deep understanding of what they do know, such that they can apply their knowledge," he said. "I believe that the real test of any learned information is whether or not the learner can make real world application of his or her learning and I believe that the spirit of SB1 supports this belief."

Instructional Norms

Training makes up most of the focus under this section, taking into account that all teachers and staff need to be proficient on The 5 Main Things and how they help the students.

"Instructional Norms are the practices and strategies used by teachers to ensure that learning occurs for all students in Shelby County classrooms," Neihof said.

The goal includes providing professional development for teachers in several areas including classroom technology, and training assistant principals and student support specialists to be able to lead training and team meetings in The 5 Main Things.

The second big part of the goal is to establish Thinking Strategies Teams at each level of education.

"We are in the beginning phase of a Thinking Strategies training that will be voluntarily available for teachers in the upcoming year," Neihof said. "Teachers who participate in the Thinking Strategies trainings will come to know that the classroom itself is integral to growing thinking students. Currently we have six middle school teachers who are in our fist cohort of Thinking Strategies Teachers. We look forward to sharing more about this with the community in days to come."

Professional Learning Community

"Margo Whisman, secondary supervisor of instruction for the district, aptly called the Professional Learning Community the vehicle for transporting all of The 5 Main Things. I couldn't agree more and thank her for this analogy," Neihof said. "During the upcoming year we are committed to improving the vertical planning and goal-setting process with and for our kids.

"Our key transition points are in grades 3, 5, 7 and 9. Our District Professional Learning Community [DPLC] will focus together with a goal of providing a measurable increase in successful transition."

The goal's focus is monitoring those transitions by low dropout percentages, reduction in retention rates and increases in the percentages of students at or above grade level in reading and math.

The progress is measured by several different assessments that are tracked during the year.

Intervention and Enrichment

The final two areas of goals will rely heavily on the board's suggestions for completion.

Neihof has suggested areas for improvement, but the board wouldl have the final say on the how much improvement is needed to meet the goals. These numbers will be set at its next meeting (Thursday).

Under Intervention, the goal is to set a percentage for the reduction in number of students one to two grade levels below their peer group in math and reading, and another set for students two grade levels below their peer group.

"By intervening in this way, we intend to dramatically reduce the number of students performing below grade level," Neihof said. "The measurement of success in this area will be the students' gains on the MAP test which will be administered three times next school year to compare each student to a national standards at each grade level."

Under Enrichment, reading and math levels will still be judged on KCCT scores at each level next year, and the board will decided what percentage of proficient and distinguished levels are attainable.

The board will also set a goal for an increase in students' scoring above grade level on MAP testing and for AP scores over a three for senior AP students.

"The number of students scoring at or above grade level in the upcoming year must increase as well," he said. "This requires that we provide enrichment classes for those who already demonstrate proficiency. We are happy to report that there are pockets of significant growth in this are already being reported in the district."

The central office will play a big role in helping the schools with both Intervention and Enrichment goals.

To help in both areas, central office staff members will partner with schools to implement training in different areas, including how to use data to help tailor education.

"In addition to our intervention goals for decreasing the number of students who are not learning at grade level, we are committed to and are setting goals to measure the level at which we successfully challenge our high achievers through enriched learning opportunities," Neihof said. "For example, at the high school level, measurements include the number of students who enroll and successfully complete Advance Placement courses."