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The Shelby County Board of Education received some disappointing information as the district marches toward the first of its BIG Goals this year.
The district’s winter Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test results revealed that the schools have a long way to go to ensure that every student entering middle school next year be on or above grade level in math and reading.
“I’m very concerned about the number of students we have below grade level as compared to last year,” Superintendent James Neihof said. “This is certainly not the level of improvement that I wanted to see.”
The MAP results showed that the district has 137 fifth-graders far enough below grade level that they predict those students will need to attend summer school. In math the number is 139.
During the same time last year, the district had 99 at the low level in reading and 137 in math, and by the end of the year those numbers had dropped to 75 in reading and 106 in math.
“Can we correctly conclude from these numbers that our efforts in math need more attention than our efforts in reading?” asked board member Sam Hinkle.
Neihof said yes, but he noted the district is adjusting to a new math program, Singapore Math, and working on the new standards.
“I also believe there are standards on the winter MAP test that we simply have not taught yet but we will teach in the second half of the year,” Neihof said. “There is speculation that we could see a big jump, but that’s just speculation right now.”
Currently, 68 percent of the district’s fifth-graders are at or above grade level in reading, and another 5 percent are very close to grade level. In math, there are 60 percent at or above grade level and 15 percent very close.
Curriculum Coordinator Susan Dugle also reported a few other trends in the data:
The district will take the MAP test again in spring before school ends, giving the district another chance to see improvement in students.
At the previous meeting, the board approved the beginning stages of planning for the new Early Childhood Center on the location of the old Northside School on College Street, but changes will be coming. On Thursday the board approved the schematic plan, essentially the floor plan, but at the leading request of board member Doug Butler, the exterior will be modified to better fit within the neighborhood.
"After a week or so to think about what the building looks like, I don't like it," he said.
Neihof said he had passed some comments from Butler on to the architects from K. Norman Berry that suggested incorporating a better feel for the surrounding neighborhood with the design.
"We've started to take a look at some of those and the community around the school, and we're seeing how we can make the exterior fit better within the community," said Harry Dumesnil of the firm.
Dumesnil said they hope to have a better representation of what the board is looking for by the time they return next month.
Since the state no longer helps districts pay for new buses, SCPS has set aside some money to update its fleet.
Through the unassigned-fund balance, the board has pulled out almost $440,000 to purchase five new buses, three 230-passenger and two 30-passenger models. The corresponding budget amendment shows the decrease from the contingency fund.
Butler also asked Neihof and Kerry Whitehouse, the assistant superintendent for operations, to look into the clean-fuels coalition.
Also at the meeting, the board: