The Elmbrook School District has taken the term "goal-oriented" to a higher level.
While each school in recent years has set specific goals for continuous improvement, the goal-setting process now includes enhanced training and accountability that includes checkpoints throughout the school year.
Curt Mould, director of instruction for the middle and high schools, and Tammy Gibbons, director of instruction for the elementary schools, shepherd the project. Mould said it is far more than a two-person leadership process.
"Mark Hansen has facilitated conversations around rigorous goal-setting and continuous improvement," Mould said. "Tammy and I coach individual schools, but it really takes a commitment from administration and the schools."
Mould said the district's administrative team met in June and school leadership teams met in August. The result was prioritized goals based on data collected through test and other sources. He and Gibbons coached schools to analyze data so they can set their own continuous improvement program.
The district's overall goal this year is to improve literacy from kindergarten through 12th grade. Mould said the process includes providing grade-specific professional development for elementary and middle school teachers, developing and deploying reading specialists and an emphasis on phonics, vocabulary and comprehension.
At the secondary level in particular, Mould said, schools are concentrating on reading comprehension in conjunction with other subjects such as science and math.
"There is an increased accountability to this," Mould said. "At least internally we will be reporting on a quarterly basis, and the School Board will be getting a report at least semi-annually."
The district also wants ACT scores, annually an indication of student achievement, to increase.
"We want the aggregate ACT score among students who take the exam to be 27 within the next three years," Mould said. This year's districtwide ACT score was 24.9.
Partnerships a must
Mould said the goals are aligned so they make sense as students progress from the earliest elementary grades to middle and high school. He said high expectations for students are not an issue for parents of the youngest students.
"We are blessed to have a supportive parent base," he said. "We communicate closely with them so all the goals are known and understood. Parents are advocates for their own kids and they want to know their students are learning and ready for the next grades."
Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dana Monogue said the ramping up of goal setting among schools as well as districtwide is a growing trend.
"Most school districts have adopted some continuous improvement framework or model," she said. "It has come out of the No Child Left Behind initiative."
Monogue also said improvement plans are "more dynamic, collaborative and complex." Administrators and teachers have more closely coordinated their efforts, resulting in a year-round preparation that includes much busier summers.
Students help, too
Students also are part of the equation.
"Fourth- and seventh-graders are going through standardized tests," Monogue said. "We want them to be a partner and take ownership of learning how to take that kind of data and also use it for improvement."
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