By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
While school district superintendents view report cards given by the Iowa Department of Education (DOE) as only a snapshot of the quality of education they provide, they take the feedback seriously, intending on diving into the numbers to grow even more in their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses.
The 2017 report cards for area K-12 school districts came in earlier this month. The Iowa School Report Cards are an evaluation of how each public school in the state is performing based on a number of factors including meeting minimally sufficient performance level bench marks in the subjects of reading and math, and college and career readiness. The schools are then assigned one of six ratings: Exceptional, High-Performing, Commendable, Acceptable, Needs Improvement or Priority.
While Mt. Pleasant Community High School stands at a Commendable rating, the elementary schools and middle schools need improvement, with the exception of Salem Elementary School, which was rated Acceptable.
Katie Gavin, Director of Instruction for the Mt. Pleasant Community School District, said that the district will debrief and talk about the scores as an administration.
?We?re definitely looking at college and career readiness growth,? Gavin said, an area in which Mt. Pleasant High School received a score of 27.5 percent out of 100. ?We?re always looking at those concern areas and wanting to ask why, continuing to look at curriculum and seeing what those students need.?
Scores are based off the statewide, standardized Iowa Assessments test. While the Mt. Pleasant Community School District is looking at area where they have room to grow, Gavin also said they are celebrating their successes.
The Winfield-Mt. Union Community School District proved for a second year to be the exception, earning Acceptable markings for Winfield Elementary School and Commendable for Winfield-Mt. Union Jr-Sr High School.
While Winfield-Mt. Union District Superintendent Jeff Maeder said his staff are still reviewing the numbers, he said he is very proud of their progress.
?We saw a slight increase in a couple of key areas,? Maeder said. ?The college and career readiness numbers especially jumped out to me as improved. Any improvement is good, but college and career readiness, especially at the high school level, is important.?
Maeder said it is important to analyze the positive ratings as well as the negative. He said the district looks at why the numbers improved to know what they are doing well in addition to and looking at what hasn?t improved over the past year and why. Maeder also said that he doesn?t feel the numbers for the elementary school fully reflect the good that is happening there.
?We think we are doing a lot to focus on reading and math intervention for students who are struggling.? Maeder said. ?We believe we are doing the right kind of work and will eventually see some positive results.?
New London?s elementary school ? Clark Elementary ? also received Commendable marks, while it?s junior-senior high school was ranked Acceptable. New London District Superintendent Chad Wahls said that, while it?s good to know the numbers are holding steady year to year, the district is taking steps and doing ?a little extra? to make those percentages grow.
Wahls said that he reads the DOE report cards as a one-time snapshot. The real picture is in what the schools do on a daily and weekly basis to improve test scores and help students retain information.
?What we tend to get caught up in is reteaching instead of extending,? Wahls explained. ?We want to make sure we are reaching the kids who are also achieving well and know the content to extend that knowledge.?
Allison Lair, Curriculum Director for the New London Community School District, said that what the district is focusing on at the middle and high school level is application. They are asking students to apply their knowledge, learn within the community and extend themselves that way.
?We don?t want them to just regurgitate and memorize,? Wahls said. ?We want it to be meaningful and purposeful and for them three years from now to remember that and continue to reapply it.?
That?s why while Wahls thinks the report cards are important evaluations, he said there is a lot more to learning than proficiency. The district is working on continuing to close the gap in all areas. One example of this is a college and career fair they are holding to help students excel in career readiness.
Lair said the district has invited people from the community in different careers such as trade, manufacturing or professional careers to talk to students. She hopes this practice will inspire the students to leave New London High School with a specific career path in mind and a vision of how they will achieve it.
?It?s not a result of any specific set of data, just knowledge and something we have been talking about with our staff and board that we want our students to leave with a plan,? Lair said.
Across the state of Iowa, only 2 percent of schools were rated Exceptional; 11 percent are High-Performing; 28 percent Commendable; 37 percent Acceptable; 17 percent Need Improvement; and 5 percent are listed as Priority.
Following are the composite, proficiency, and college and career-ready growth scores of area schools.
Harlan Elementary ? Needs Improvement ? composite, 60.5; proficiency, 76.4; college and career-ready growth, 36.4.
Lincoln Elementary ? Needs Improvement ? composite, 60.7; proficiency, 86.2; college and career-ready growth, 44.9.
High school ? Commendable ? composite, 67.2; proficiency, 86.5; college and career-ready growth, 27.5.
Middle school ? Needs Improvement ? composite, 54.7; proficiency, 72.1; college and career-ready growth, 40.5.
Salem Elementary ? Acceptable ? composite, 64.6; proficiency, 83.2; college and career-ready growth, 50.
Van Allen Elementary ? Needs Improvement ? composite, 55.2; proficiency, 59.8; college and career-ready growth, 38.5.
Wisdom Quest ? unable to score.
Clark Elementary ? Commendable ? composite, 68; proficiency, 81.5; college and career-ready growth, 61.8.
Junior/senior high school ? Acceptable ? composite, 60.7; proficiency, 78.9; college and career-ready growth 35.6.
Elementary school ? Acceptable ? composite, 61.8; proficiency 75.8; college and career-ready growth, 49.4.
High school ? Acceptable ? composite, 64.6; proficiency, 81.4; college and career-ready growth, 41.9.
W-MU Elementary ? Acceptable ? composite, 65.2; proficiency, 75.2; college and career-ready growth, 54.9.
Junior/senior high school ? Commendable ? composite, 67.3; proficiency, 80.5; college and career-ready growth, 40.8.
Note that the school report card, while an important measure of education, still is just one measure. As each school district reviews their report and analyzes how they can improve, they all are doing the best they can to help students succeed.
?We are certainly proud of the work we?re doing here, and will continue to work hard in improving,? Maeder said.
The Iowa School Report Card is available at www.educateiowa.gov/schoolreportcard.