EIS makes CATS goal

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

For Eminence Independent Schools, the 2008 CATS results brought mostly good news.

As a district, EIS exceeded its accountability goal of 83.7 with a biennium accountability index of 85.4. The district also continued a reduction in its novice rate, falling below its novice goal of 15.23 with an average of 10.22 for the 2007-2008 biennium.

Those scores come, in part, on a gain of more than seven points in the elementary school’s accountability index – the largest gain of the district’s three schools according to EIS Superintendent Donald Aldridge. The middle school declined slightly to 92.1, while the high school saw a two-point jump to 88.3.

Aldridge said there were few surprises in the district’s scores, though he was impressed with the high school’s math scores.

“We had two different math teachers at the high school level last year, both very experienced,” he said. “I think the addition of that staff is a (reason) why that score jumped.”

He said one of the school’s interactive classrooms, which integrate technology into the classroom, may have helped as well. And the district’s soon-to-be no C policy also might play a role.

The policy requires students to have 80 percent mastery of a subject to pass, Aldridge said.

The elementary school’s success, Aldridge said, was particularly remarkable considering the adversity the school faced in the last school year.

“We had one staff member pass away in January, and another that went on disability,” he said. Both were fourth grade teachers, a grade that he said constitutes half of the school’s accountability. The staff, he said, didn’t use that as an excuse. “Other staff members stepped up to pick up the slack, and they still made a 7.2-point gain,” Aldridge said. “That is a tremendous accomplishment.”

Elementary scores

Eminence Elementary School did have the district’s largest gain, thanks in no small part to a significant jump in math scores. The school saw a gain of more than 12 points in that content area, as well as a nearly 22-point jump in social studies scores. Just two content areas declined – Reading (2.5 points) and writing portfolio (3.3 points).The smallest gain for the elementary school came in on-demand writing, where the school had just a 5.1-point gain.

The most significant gaps in the school’s scores were between students approved for free/reduced lunches and those not on the program. The accountability index gap for the two groups was 14.9 points.

The largest gap at the school was a 36.4-point gap between free/reduced students and those students not on the program in fourth grade practical living/vocational studies scores (67.6 and 104 respectively).

Middle school scores

Though Eminence Middle School’s accountability index declined 1.7 points, the school remained above 90 with a 92.1. Just three content areas for the school saw an increase in scores – science (5.8 points), social studies (4.7 points) and practical living/vocational studies (1.9 points). The largest decline for EMS came in Arts and Humanities, with a 7.3 point decline – but that score remained close to 100. In fact, the only score for the school that was not close to or above 90, was the school’s math score – 74.2.

Like the elementary school, EMS’ students on free/reduced lunch scored lower than students not on the program. The poorer students’ accountability index dropped by 12.7 points, creating a 25.8 point gap with students not on the free/reduced program.

The largest gap at Eminence Middle School was a 55.8-point gap in practical living/vocational studies between students approved for free/reduced lunch (64.2) and those not approved for the program (120).

High school scores

With an accountability index of 88.3, Eminence High School had increases in four content areas, all with scores close to or more than 10 points ahead of 2007 – math jumped 11.5 points, practical living/vocational studies jumped 9.9 points, portfolio scores increased 11.2 points, and on-demand writing jumped by 12.5 points. The school did see an almost 11 point decline in reading scores, but that score dropped to just 96.6 points.

Three content areas at the high school were at 100 points or higher – arts and humanities (100.9), practical living/vocational studies (105.3) and portfolios (101.3).

The school did not have enough students in the free/reduced lunch program to be able to identify a gap. To protect student identities, data is reported to the public only for demographic groups with 10 or more students. But a relatively minor gap between male and female students held steady at 8.3 points.

Again, the largest gap was found in practical living/vocational studies. Students approved for free/reduced lunch (82.8) scored 34-points lower than students not approved for the program (117.1).

The overall gap between the free/reduced lunch students and those not in the program was not huge, according to Aldridge, who said there likely would be a continuous gap as scores for all students increase.

“There may always be a gap, but that doesn’t mean there’s a bad thing ee the goal is for there always to be an improvement,” he said.

Aldridge said the scores for students with disabilities also is a concern, though there were not enough students for the school to be held accountable. He said that with few resources, the district tries to avoid pulling students with disabilities out of the classroom, “so they do get in and get the same content.”

He added that the district always looks for programs to enhance collaborative education for those students.

Aldridge said he would ask the board of education to consider making each classroom in the school an interactive classroom. The interactive classrooms, which integrate a variety of technologies into teaching, would enable teachers to spend less time planning and more time assessing students.

He added that teachers are working more together, sharing their experiences and knowledge.

Will the district hit the statewide proficiency goal of 100 percent by 2014? Aldridge said yes, but that he doesn’t want to wait until 2014.

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