Board of Education holds work session

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) Student growth in reading, language usage, and math increased in 2017-2018 when compared to 2016-2017 levels in the Juneau School district.

    The Juneau Board of Education held a work session on student achievement.  The report showed 3,719 students were tested and 62.8 percent were at or above grade level in reading, 66.3 percent in language, and 58.4 percent in math.

    The report showed 24.1 percent of students were substantially above grade level in reading, and 22 percent were substantially below grade level.  24.7 percent of students were substantially above and 18.3 percent substantially below in language, and 20.7 percent were substantially above and 23.9 percent substantially below grade level in math.

    The students in kindergarten to tenth grade were tested.  The student growth summary report intent is to serve as a guide when making adjustments to instruction and use of materials. The tests provide valuable information to teachers, parents and students,  "We want students to own their learning and take responsibility for their learning, "Coordinator of Assessment, Evaluation and Information, Phil Loseby told the Board.

    Loseby said the goal is to accelerate learning so students below grade level can ultimately close the gap.  Research shows if kids are not proficient by the end of the third grade they do not normally reach grade level.

    Josh Keaton said one group of kids in the third grade now are a concern.  School officials said they were not prepared to start school in kindergarten.  Keaton said this shows the community should focus on the need for preschool education.

    Loseby called birth to age three 'a critical time' for establishing the learning foundation for school. 

    Andi Storey said its important to let parents know when kids need to catch up and the school should offer assistance or help to these families.  Those could include more learning nights and school events. 

    The schools regularly engage with parents to update them on student progress.

    "We let parents know what is expected in math and reading... and that lets teachers have conversations with parents," Director of Teaching and Learning Ted Wilson said.

    Kindergarten data looked better than previous years.  First and second grades didn't show as much growth.  "I think we have seen a modest increase in the scores of students in those grade levels.  First and second grade are still troubling," he added.

    Keaton said a lot of these reports with numbers don't include a lot of explanation that parents can understand.  "When you tell a parent what a kid is ready to learn, that to me as a parent is more powerful than this report with a lot of numbers on where you rank nationally."

    Wilson said there is professional development for teachers that can help them better explain how students perform and where they stand.

    Among schools, Auke Bay had 64.6 percent of students at grade level in reading, 64.9 percent in language and 65.3 percent in math. Gastineau Elementary had 57.4 students at grade level in reading, 55.8 percent in language, and 57.9 percent in math.  Glacier Valley had 56 percent in reading, 55.5 percent in language and 54.6 percent in math.  Dzantik'i Heeni had 67.7 percent in reading, 68.8 percent in language and 60.8 percent in math.  Floyd Dryden had 71.2 percent in reading, 69.9 percent in language, and 59.3 percent in math.  Harborview had 52.4 percent in reading, 55.1 percent in language, and 54.4 percent in math. Juneau Douglas High had 69.4 percent in reading, 76.4 percent in language and 68.8 percent in math.  Riverbend had 53.7 percent in reading, 61.1 percent in language and 50.4 percent in math.  Mendenhall River had 57.6 percent in reading, 62.4 percent in language and 52.6 percent in math.  Montessori Borealis had 64.7 percent in reading, 68.3 percent in language and 53.2 percent in math.  Thunder Mountain had 80.3 percent in reading, 82.6 percent in language and 72.5 percent in math.  Yaakoosge' Daakahidi had 35.3 percent in reading, 46.2 percent in language and 26.7 percent in math.

    "Were doing about average, were dong a little better than average in reading," Loseby added. "We have high expectations.  We want 90-percent of our kids at this level."

    Interim Superintendent Dr. Bridget Weiss said this is one point of data and only part of the picture of overall student achievement.  "One of the important questions is parental understanding.  The value of math is formative.  We get the information quickly at the beginning and middle of the year when teachers have access to those same kids.  The better trained our teachers, the better they can communicate that to parents and help parents engage with us and assisting us with their child's growth."

    She suggested learning evenings at schools that include food, fun and learning for parents on the performance of students.

    School Board member Jeff Short said he was delighted in the increase in all three categories and particularly in math and early grades, "My analysis of these results with the ones before is we are finding to see real material strides and advances, I congratulate you all.  This means a lot and this shows what our students can achieve in the future."

    Short said this is a big deal and a success story for Juneau.

    Dr. Weiss praised her department of education for the work being done to improve students.   She also credited a focus on professional development for both teachers and administrators.

    Chairperson Brian Holst said Juneau students do better than average but the district faces a big challenge because some students under perform pretty significantly.  "We are seeing improvements but we have trouble in certain sub groups."

    Wilson praised the work and improvement at Riverbend Elementary School.  He said the improvement is due to working on student emotional and social needs and preparing them better for academic work.  "We think social and emotional learning is something that needs more focus."

    Story said the board needs to promote more summer school, expansion of staff capacity, and intervention with students who are behind grade level are issues that need to be addressed in the future.

     

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