Ephrata students’ literacy scores exceed state, national average

By on May 9, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Students in Ephrata Area School District continue to perform well against state and national literacy averages. That was part of the message brought to the Ephrata Area School Board at its April 16 meeting.

Assistant Superintendent for Primary Education Mrs. Kim Schlemmer and Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Dr. Brian Troop updated school directors on the District literacy goal to develop and monitor the efficacy of a standards-aligned K through 12 literacy curriculum framework (language arts courses/programs) for increasing students’ achievement in both reading and written expression.

According to the report, K through 12 curriculum documents reflect evidence of correspondence to a Standards Aligned System (SAS). The District curriculum maps continue to use the same framework identified through Pennsylvania Department of Education’s SAS with Big Ideas, Concepts/Skills, Competencies/Objectives and Common Unit Assessments. But the District has developed the process for updating and improving the Common Unit Assessments to reflect increased rigor and evolving state targets.

"We do anticipate some revisions with the introduction of the new Common Core Requirements and the evolving picture of how students will be asked to show mastery of State Standards," said Schlemmer and Troop.

The assistant superintendents provided evidence to support progress toward district goals, with the establishment of staff development training sessions to be shared with the board at the meeting this month.

The report pointed to teacher observation data reflecting effective implementation of a literacy program and high impact instructional strategies. It was explained that the current teacher observation instrument includes the four domains of the Danielson Rubric: Planning and Preparation, Learning Environment, Instruction and Professional Responsibilities. Further, it was pointed out that the District’s teacher observation and evaluation process has not changed in the last year. However, the new state teacher evaluation process is very similar to what is currently being used and to date, has not been approved by legislature.

The report also highlighted student achievement and progress toward district goals. Progress was shown in reading within all subgroups from Kindergarten through twelfth grade. What’s more, based on national Normal Curve Equivalent (NCE) scores, progress among the grade levels was better, with few exceptions shown from the spring 2010 to spring 2011 scores. Any score greater than 50 indicates that a student is exceeding the performance of the national average. In all cases District students at all grade levels exceeded that 50 benchmark.

"This pattern of EASD NCE scores greater than expected as compared to the national NCE scores has been consistent," said Schlemmer and Troop.

Schlemmer reviewed literacy plans relative to elementary students and said there were plans to reconvene the reading committee in order to align the curriculum with the new Common Core Standards and establish more rigorous expectations and common vocabulary in reading and writing at each grade level. The District will also increase the utilization of the Fast ForWord program to provide even more students the opportunity to build strong foundations in memory, attention, processing, rate and sequencing.

In addition, a Core team of teachers and administrators will be established to lead the District forward in better understanding the philosophy of Differentiated Instruction, Engagement and Expanding and Embedding Instruction through better integration of content. A "Hand-off Data Day" will be continued this spring to effectively pass data along to the next grade level. This will help by building an emphasis on data analysis and Response to Instruction and Intervention to use on an ongoing basis throughout the year as the District monitors individual progress toward the goal of 100 percent proficiency.

Schlemmer also detailed various enhanced pre-K initiatives including Let the Learning Begin, Early Childhood Consortium and the Pre-K Summer Literacy Kindergarten Camp Program, among others.

Dr. Troop similarly outlined the secondary focus on literacy. Those efforts will include an increase in the level of rigor within the instructional activities and the common uniform assessments. The process in which the results of uniform assessment are used to drive curricular and instructional decisions will become more formalized. There will be an increase in the use of Differentiated Instructional strategies and innovative programs aimed at giving students more ownership of their work. The District also plans to refocus the role of the literacy coaches to support the implementation of new instructional strategies and intervention programs. The amount of time struggling students spend on literacy instruction will also be increased.

Schlemmer and Troop detailed district-wide literacy goals: grades Kindergarten through four focus on all students exiting fourth grade reading on grade level; grades five and six focus on the use of reading instructional strategies and accountability across all content areas to maintain students at level; grades seven and eight focus on supporting struggling readers through the use of pre-teaching of skills, concepts and vocabulary in non-fiction; and grades nine through 12 reformat the literacy support instruction to focus on the key comprehension skills associated with non-fiction text and vocabulary acquisition.

"The national score is 50, and you’ll see how in grades one through 10, we’re scoring in the 57 to 67 range," said School Board President Timothy Stayer. "The District has made great advances in literacy performance of our students. As Dr. Rosati also shared, we’ll be able to begin tracking cohort groups and see the student growth and performance from year to year. In other words, we’ll be able to see how the same group of students performs from first grade until the time they graduate. The major benefit is that when there is a drop of performance from one grade to the next, intervention can take place to see how we need to improve our processes to better serve the students. So it was an exciting update," he said.

Visit the Ephrata Area School District website at easdpa.org for more information. Gary P. Klinger welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com. More EASD, page A18

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