Four Schools Introduce Targeted Improvement Plans
Four Schools Introduce Targeted Improvement Plans
Fewer class size waivers requested this year compared to last
Booker T. Washington Principal Mark Davis was one of four principals that addressed board members Tuesday with their plans for academic improvement this year.
Principals from WFISD’s four Improvement Required campuses brought board members their plans to make this year a high-achieving one. The presentations came Tuesday in the September 12 special session at the Education Center.
Principals Dr. Troy Farris (Kirby Middle School), Mark Davis (Booker T. Washington Elementary), Doug Albus (Hirschi High School) and Angie Betts (Franklin Elementary) outlined the steps they will take to help correct last year’s deficiencies. Each principal listed one or two problem areas at his or her school that caused them to fall short on one or more student achievement indicators that are state requirements. Then they outlined the key strategies that they have put in place to remedy the problems.
Hirschi High School, New to IR
At Hirschi, too few students passed their English 1 and English 2 STAAR tests, said Mr. Albus. An average of 43.5 percent of students scored at Approaching Grade Level; 23.5 percent of students scored at Meets Grade Level, and 2 percent scored at Masters Grade Level.
Mr. Albus pinpointed the root cause as a lack of effective instructional strategies in reading and writing. To improve, his teachers will use the High Reliability Schools framework for teaching, including a program called the Art and Science of Teaching.
Special education teachers will also collaborate with classroom teachers to monitor the performance of special ed students. None of Hirschi’s special ed students performed at grade level on English 1 or 2 End of Course exams. The campus lacked a systematic process of placing students and providing targeted support to increase their learning, said Mr. Albus.
One new strategy: Mr. Albus created 9th grade teacher teams who share a daily planning period. The teams will collaborate for planning, instruction and intervention using specific data.
Fewer than 5 percent of incoming Hirschi freshmen hit the “Masters Grade Level” academic performance in reading and math, he said. The incoming 9th grade students reflect a district feeder pattern of struggling elementary and middle school students that come to the school unprepared to perform on grade level.
Mr. Albus said he would help the 9th grade support teams use data-driven instruction to help meet student needs.
Booker T. Washington Elementary (Year 3 in IR)
Board members commended Principal Mark Davis for his first year of leadership at the East Side school, despite Booker T. Washington Elementary remaining in the Improvement Required category for the third consecutive year. The school actually saw solid academic gains from the prior year, said Superintendent Mike Kuhrt. In previous years, academic improvement was nil.
In the four areas – or indexes -- graded by the state, Booker T. students improved five points in Index 1, 7 points in Index 2, 4 points in Index 3, and tripled their achievement in Index 4, going from 3 points to 9 points. “It’s like getting the TAAS ‘Commended’ (ranking) on two or more tests,” said Mr. Davis. “We had a few kids who had never passed a test that passed!”
Other promising news: Teacher turnover at the school decreased this year. The prior year, the school hired 24 new teachers, 75 percent of whom were new to teaching or new to their position.
The campus will use the High Reliability Schools framework during the next two years to improve instructional strategies, support its leaders, and nurture a growth mindset, according to its Turnaround Implementation Plan.
The Booker T. Washington team will also build a safe and collaborative culture. Administrators will more closely monitor classroom instruction to verify that the curriculum is implemented campus wide.
Its plan includes training instructional coaches, supporting professional learning communities, implementing the Capturing Kids’ Hearts behavior program, and using data to set up boot camps for struggling students. The campus will also use strategies of Balanced Literacy and the District’s new brain-research-based program, Scientific Learning.
Franklin Elementary, New to IR
Franklin Principal Angie Betts told board members that the key struggle at her school is math performance among the school’s Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students.
However, Mrs. Betts told board members that this year spent in “Improvement Required” status would be its last. “One and done at Franklin,” she said. “We want out.”
To improve, teachers and leadership teams will use HRS strategies. She will plan walkthrough visits to confirm that instruction has improved in classrooms. Region 9 support staff will also visit and help at the campus.
Teachers will also receive specific math vocabulary training provided by Franklin Instructional Coaches, which are Marzano research-based. As students speak, listen, read and write with the new academic language, it will “make a huge difference” for children, she said.
The school will focus on fluency and comprehension through its Balanced Literacy program three days per week. She will plan after-school tutoring and, in the spring, Saturday school. There will also be daily “Pride Time” for the school that has a lion for a mascot, with three days of interventions focusing on math and two days of interventions focusing on reading.
She said her plan is “rock solid,” and “our teachers are highly committed.”
Kirby Middle School (Year 2 in IR)
Kirby Principal Troy Farris told board members that Kirby students improved by 12 percent in 8th grade math scores, and 7th grade reading passing scores were also up, but the school still has many needs that it inherits from an economically disadvantaged population.
He called out the exact numbers of specific students who need accelerated instruction in reading, math, and science.
While the school succeeded in meeting the state’s Index 2 and Index 4, it missed Index 1 by 7 points, and Index 3 by 3 points, requiring Kirby to go into its second year of Improvement Required status.
“Each teacher has a breakdown of their students’ needs,” said Mr. Farris.
The school will address its problems by improving instructional strategies in reading and math and implementing a campus-wide focus on reading. The school will implement High Reliability Schools training to include the Art and Science of Teaching program. The training will include walkthrough visits to confirm that teaching improves. Region 9 support staff will also visit and help teachers.
Teachers will collaborate in professional learning community teams. They will also implement the online Prodigy Math program in STAAR math classes. Then the data received will be analyzed and used in the professional learning communities.
Mr. Farris said the school will also use the District’s new brain-research-based Scientific Learning reading program, Capturing Kids’ Hearts behavior program, and the High Reliability Schools strategies.
Discipline has also been a problem at the school, but it is improving. Last year, the school recorded 1,200 office referrals, with 550 students pulled out of the classroom and put in ISS. This year, Mr. Farris took all his teachers on a bus ride into and around the neighborhoods that house Kirby’s students. It was eye-opening to many teachers, he said.
Now that teachers have a better understanding of the children’s problems that they are dealing with, it has affected classroom instruction and discipline.
“We have zero kids in ISS today,” he said.
Class Size Exception Waiver
Enrollment fluctuations around the District prompted Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths to ask board members for class-size waivers for 23 classrooms on seven campuses. That total is down from last year’s request for 33 waivers at eight campuses.
These classes will have more students in them than the 22:1 state requirement. However, the need for the waiver that is urgent now may dissipate soon as the year progresses and enrollment dwindles, said Mr. Griffiths.
He noted that classes at Jefferson and West Elementary Schools are getting squeezed because of the influx of students from new apartments constructed in the area, he said.
The FDB (Local) policy, which is set to be approved on Monday’s Consent Agenda, went through one final change Tuesday.
Board member Bob Payton asked that a provision be made for teachers who want to enroll their children in a school at or near where they teach.
Typically, such decisions are made early in the spring, but some teachers or paraprofessionals may learn of an assignment change later in the year.
Tackling this policy requires WFISD to be clear about when to make exceptions and when “full is full” at each campus.
Board members suggested that the District no longer make the decision based on whether the employee making the request is in an exempt or non-exempt position but decide instead according to the employee’s years of service.
This policy also has an addition that requires the district to consider a student’s “good standing” and take into consideration whether or not a student’s disability may have affected that “good standing.”
FICA Alternative Plan
Many of the District’s substitute teachers and temporary summer helpers during the past 25 years have racked up retirement money in an administrative account that they probably don’t know about. The District wants to help them retrieve their money.
Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod asked board members to consider adopting a different FICA Alternative plan, one that is used by Region 10 (in Dallas). Through this agreement, the TCG Administrators will absorb the surrender cost of changing providers for the 457(b) plan – a key perk. It will also lower the cost of fees charged to WFISD employees.
An additional benefit: all inactive employees who have left the District will be contacted and given instructions on how to withdraw any funds they contributed while employed with WFISD.
Currently, employees are getting 1 percent return on a fixed annuity but are charged $12 per year for administrative fees. The new Region 10 plan will charge 1.5 percent of assets to manage its diversified portfolio that has averaged a 5 percent gain per year.
A typical former employee may have anywhere from $3 to $400 locked up in this plan and be unaware of it.
Board members will vote on this decision at Monday’s school board meeting.
Mr. Sherrod asked board members to approve a change order for $240,950 to rebuild Brewster Street at the Career Education Center.
Repairing Brewster Street from the CEC to Midwestern Parkway was originally part of the Career Education Center construction. However, when the area was cleared out, it was in such disrepair that the street needed a new base and bridge. “We are responsible for the bridge because it’s on our property line,” explained Mr. Kuhrt.
The City of Wichita Falls has agreed to pay $128,000. WFISD will bear the remainder of the cost from its contingency fund.
Region 9 Service Center Contract
Every year, WFISD contracts with Region 9 Service Center to take advantage of many of its services. This year, the contract includes 12 separate services totaling $341,618. That is up from last year’s contract, which totaled $310,114.
Board members were asked to approve the annual contract since it exceeds $100,000.
Human Resources Director Cyndy Kohl reported that two aides retired and 13 support workers – mostly aides – resigned, mostly by May 26. 2017.
Board members approved the Applicant Pool of seven new teachers and the contract change of one classroom teacher to that of a non-certified, professional 10-month contract.