There is a lot of finger pointing in education these days and data is used as a weapon to destroy teachers and schools where students aren’t measuring up to expectations. Schools with students that are struggling against the roadblocks of poverty bear the brunt of these attacks. In some districts these are the schools that are closed and turned into charter schools.
No one will deny that schools with a majority of students living in poverty need to see academic gains, but what is the best way to see this progress happen?
In the Jefferson Area schools (Edgewater, Jefferson, Lumberg and Molholm), we are committed to using supportive accountability to drive positive results for students and schools. What do we mean by supportive accountability?
Teachers and staff are working hard in the Jefferson Area to see students succeed. They know what is best for their students. Our work is to raise funds, write grants and connect community partners to the work that is already happening in the schools. Schools cannot do it alone. It takes a community to turn around a school. This school year we are working with schools to find what instructional practices in the classroom are increasing student achievement and connect more teachers to these successful practices. We are also investing money into marketing materials and paying teachers to lead School Interest Nights at Edgewater, Lumberg and Molholm. It is important to us that area families look at their neighborhood schools before choicing out to other surrounding schools. We need to change the narrative surrounding our neighborhood schools and a great way to do this is by encouraging families with younger children to look at enrolling their kindergarten student at one of these schools. Integrated schools are best for all students.
As we support and invest funds in what is happening in the schools, we will continue to take a hard look at student achievement data and publish community reports each winter. The yearly Jefferson Community Report presents the data on each of the milestones of the Jefferson Success Pathway:
- Family health
- Kindergarten readiness
- 3rd grade reading
- 5th grade math
- 8th grade math
- College and career readiness
We break down the academic scores by school so we can compare what is happening at one school to the others. We also work hard to disaggregate the data by demographics like poverty and race to make sure that all students have a chance to succeed. This year’s community report will also include targets for each of the milestones for the school years ending in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Most importantly, we also work with schools to tell the stories behind the data. With a large population of students who speak Spanish as their first language, this impacts their test scores for the kindergarten readiness and 3rd grade reading milestones. It is very important to understand the student stories before looking at the academic data points.
Our area schools are now in the third year of the Jefferson Plan to increase student achievement in the area. Our hope is that this increased supportive accountability by multiple community partners on the Jefferson Success Pathway will result in sustained student achievement growth over the next three school years.
Together we can see thriving Jefferson Area schools and more students prepared for a successful career!