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School board adopts progress goals

95% of most students to be proficient in reading, writing and math

SOLON– The new goals are really similar to the old goals.
Just with some tweaking.
The Solon Community School District’s (SCSD) Board of Education adopted annual goals for its strategic plan at a July 9 meeting.
New to the annual review is a Social Emotional Mental Health component, and board members approved a $6,780 one-year, per-student subscription for a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) screening tool to be implemented with the 2019-20 school year.
With the addition, the district now sets annual goals for five different areas with subsets of priorities further broken down to building level.
Board members reviewed the five areas– Academic, Career Planning, Postsecondary, School Improvement and Social Emotional Mental Health– with Superintendent Davis Eidahl and Director of Instructional Services Josh Lyons.
Eidahl explained the goals are evaluated each year with the School Improvement Advisory Committee, with recommendations forwarded to the board.
He indicated the goals are the same as previous years with small improvements based on ever-evolving educational strategies.
The overall Academic target for the district is to have 95 percent of students in third through 11th grades proficient in reading, writing and math; and fifth, eighth and 11th grades in science, as measured by the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP).
Additionally, the SCSD wants 95 percent of students identified in special education or low socioeconomic status subgroups to achieve 1 1/2 years growth in reading and math as measured by statewide or district assessment.
“There’s a gap between special education and general education students and in order to close that gap we have to grow more than a year,” Lyons explained to board members.
The ISASP was introduced last year, and districts statewide are expecting results to be released this fall. The summer has been spent calibrating, looking at scores and determining what proficiency looks like, Lyons noted.
Under Career Planning, the district’s objective is to have 95 percent of students complete postsecondary credit coursework before graduation.
“We have a lot of kids involved in that through the Kirkwood Academy,” Lyons commented.
In their Postsecondary endeavors, Solon aims to see 90 percent of students earn a postsecondary certification or degree within five years of graduating high school.
The State of Iowa collects some of that data, and Lyons said he hopes the board can review it as a group in the future.
For School Improvement, the district will annually collect feedback from students, staff and community through various methods for continuous improvement.
The new pillar, Social Emotional Mental Health, was adopted based on discussions by the district wellness committee and mental health advisory council, Lyons said.
The stated goal is to “increase the social, emotional, mental health, and behavioral well being of students through a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS).”
All teachers and support staff will also participate in professional learning that builds capacity to recognize mental health indicators and implement responsive strategies, the document noted.
“We are constantly putting in, implementing new actions to meet these goals,” Eidahl reported of the overall plan.
For instance, he said, under School Improvement, the district undertakes various methods for collecting feedback, including surveys of parents, students and the community.
This past year, he continued, a group of sixth through 12th grade students attended a SIAC meeting, sitting down with community members to respond to questions face to face.
“We talk about trying to address these goals, we’re always looking for various methods to do that,” Eidahl added.
Lyons indicated it was a productive session and will likely be continued in the future.
“I think that was one of the most powerful discussions we had as a SIAC committee,” he said.
Lyons walked board members through the priority areas identified under each goal. For example, he noted, the Academic section includes Literacy, which is broken down to reading and writing. Drilling deeper into the plan unearths more objectives, like having all students reading daily.
Although much of the district’s focus has been on literacy, Lyons noted, the lessons learned from trying different strategies and thinking differently about structure can hopefully be transferred to other subject matter like social studies.
The district also has to be tempered in its approach because kindergarten through fifth grade educators typically teach all subjects, he said.
“The challenge for K-5 teachers is that they teach everything,” he said. “So how do we manage that without overkill, burning people out?”
Social studies, science and other content areas are being addressed for grades six through 12, Eidahl noted.
“We have to be strategic not to overtax the elementary teachers that teach it all,” he added. “We start with the literacy– the reading and writing– and then we look– OK, how was that process?”
Lyons said the district wants to build capacity for students, building different pathways for them to access their education, creating its own definition for personalized learning.
During discussion, board member Rick Jedlicka asked what date the board will use to review the targets.
Ninety-five percent proficiency for third through 11th grades is a big number, he observed.
“Ninety-five percent– we’re asking a lot of everybody to get to that number,” Jedlicka stated.
When the goal was first set, Eidahl noted, it was 85 percent proficient, with 25 advanced proficient.
“Well, we darn near hit that goal,” he said. Collectively, it was decided to raise it to 90 percent and 30 percent advanced proficient.
While the district currently doesn’t have data from ISASP to gauge against, it will continue to use benchmark assessments, he added.
“Realistically we know there are three to four percent of our students that are severely handicapped,” Eidahl stated. “Being realistic, 95 percent is a truer number that we can get to, especially when we start our kids as 3-year-olds; get a jump start with those kids.”
Board members approved the annual progress goals and a contract with Aperture Education of South Carolina for its Devereux Students Strengths Assessment (DESSA) screening tool. The DESSA is a standardized, strength-based SEL assessment measuring the social and emotional competence of students.
A smaller version of the program utilizes just eight questions and will be administered to all students, perhaps by late September or early October. The full screening includes 72 questions.