Analysis shows elementary reading program working

Fulton’s elementary schools are on track with reading instruction and curriculum, judging by the data shared during Wednesday night’s school board meeting.

Director of Special Services Barbara Reid gave board members a presentation on AIMSweb, an online database that helps educators track student progress.

She said students in kindergarten through second grade take DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) tests — which Reid described as one-minute tests based on what students are expected to be able to do with skills such as letter recognition and phonics.

“It gives you an idea of what that student’s reading index is,” Reid said.

Third- through eighth-grade students take READING-MAZE tests, which are three-minute assessments that she said “assess fluency and comprehension.”

Those tests are administered periodically throughout the year and that information is entered into AIMSweb, which helps display those assessments in graphic form so educators are better-able to analyze student progress.

“The green box is the 25th to 75th percentile — that’s where we expect the average student to be, so obviously you want your student to be in the green or above,” Reid explained as she shared one such graph with board members. “That dark line is the target as to where they are expected to be at that time. You can compare that to all the students in McIntire, in the district, and to the national norm.”

This is the fourth year Fulton has been using the system, which means teachers also can track student progress from year to year.

“Not only can you track individual students, but it also gives us an idea of how the district is doing as a whole,” Reid said as she pulled up a graph showing where all three elementary schools are. As of the most recent assessments, the majority of students at Bush and Bartley elementaries are at or above the target, while even the lowest-scoring students at McIntire were well-above the target.

Reid said the AIMSweb program is particularly valuable because it helps educators figure out whether lower scores or achievement is “an instruction issue, a curriculum issue or an individual issue. It really tells us whether our instruction has been effective.”

“It answers is what we’re teaching and how we’re teaching effective?” Reid said. “With this many kids above target level, that tells us we are.”

She said the program’s focus right now is on reading, but the district is looking at branching out into writing and math as well. Reid said she is currently writing a grant to get the math program.

In other business, Superintendent Jacque Cowherd gave a financial update, noting the district currently is on track with the budget.

“With cash balances and cash flow we’re stable, and we’re stable because of cuts we’ve made,” Cowherd said. “As of this week we’re at 100 percent collection of budgeted taxes, which is a first for the past six years.”

He said Proposition C and foundation formula funding also are on track, although they were budgeted significantly lower than last year. Gaming revenue is still a little behind, but the operating revenue is at approximately 67 percent and expenditures are at about 47 percent of what was budgeted for fiscal year 2011, so they also are where they should be.

“I think we’re okay right now,” Cowherd said.

Also during Wednesday night’s meeting:

•Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Hull said an announcement is expected from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education regarding pushing MAP testing back by a week because of recent weather-related school closings.

•The board approved May 27 as the date for graduation.

•The board approved June 6-July 1 as the dates for summer school.

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