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Shelby County Public Schools showed overall good performance against the goals the school board set for its 2010-11 school year, but there also are some areas in which aggressive goals weren’t met.
That was the assessment the board heard at its meeting Thursday night during a review of the goals, which center on the district’s 5 Main Things of Curriculum Alignment, Instructional Norms, Professional Learning Communities, Intervention and Enrichment.
And it was in Intervention and Enrichment that the district came up short, though even then the struggles were somewhat self-imposed.
The aggressive goals for intervention were to improve the below-grade-level students by 50 percent and also to improve the number of students projected to be proficient/distinguished by 50 percent.
“Those are goals we struggled to set last year, and, quite honestly, we failed to meet this year,” Superintendent James Neihof told the board. “It’s easy to say it’s a bad goal, but we believe it was just a very aggressive goal.
“We certainly don’t apologize for setting the goal, but we were not close enough in reaching it.”
The district saw improvement of about 4 to 5 percent against each goal.
“Why was the improvement only four or five percent?” Board Chairman Sam Hinkle asked.
“We don’t have all the answers for that yet,” Neihof said. “We want growth that will continuously change the trajectory of students, but we know that four to five percent is not enough.”
The board did see improvement and success in the other parts of the goals for Intervention and Enrichment.
On Intervention, SCPS grew a minimum of 10 percent in 20 of 22 student groups, as specified by the No Child Left Behind standards, failing only to meet the needs of African-American students for growth in reading and math, something Neihof said that the district continues to work on.
In Enrichment, the district will wait to see how many students will pass the AP exams this spring, a number they hope will surpass last year’s 205, and the projections are promising.
With 819 students enrolled in AP courses this year, the district has seen an almost 100 percent increase in participation from 2009 and about 43 percent from last year.
Under the Curriculum Alignment goals, Cindy French, director of elementary schools, said new common core standards have kept administrators and teachers busy.
“It’s been a very, very busy year,” she said. “We’ve had groups of teachers and administrators attending standards meetings, and they come back and dissect them and share them with their principals and the rest of their buildings to continue working on them.”
The district has completed a plan to roll out the new standards in 2011-12, but because of some late releases is waiting until fall to finish. But training on those standards has begun.
For Instructional Norms, Lisa Smith, the director of student programs and services, focused on the district’s dedication to thinking strategies.
“Simply put, thinking strategies are really good teaching,” she said. “It helps teachers understand their own thinking better, so they can better help students understand their own thinking.”
The district now has 115 staff members trained in thinking strategies, including each school having its own trained group.
The district also focused on home visits at the beginning of the school year, and Smith applauded the teacher’s efforts and the success of the program.
“They were very successful in strengthening the parent/teacher partnership,” she said. “I constantly have teachers and parents come up to me and remark on how well the visits went. The teachers are really embracing the idea and continuing to use that relationship with parents.”
Kerry Fannin, the assistant superintendent for student achievement, said the district’s teachers continue to work to meet the goals for Professional Learning Communities.
Having each student tracked with MAP, Explore, Plan and ACT and test scores is a first for the district, and those data boards will continue to grow.
“We’ve never been able to track each individual student like that,” he said. “And those boards will only continue to provide more and more information on each student’s growth as we continue to use them and add more information year after year.”