School Board educated on state ‘School Report Card’ program

by Dave Cary Review Correspondent

PLYMOUTH – Assistant Superintendent Dan Mella gave some insights on some of the data used to determine a district’s report numbers in the state “School Report Card” program. The numbers are gathered from tests given to different kids in each district each year.

The federal “No Child Left Behind” program has as one of its goals a narrowing of the perceived gap in academic success between children of either a background of economic deprivation or being a member of an ethnic minority group and non-minority children from middle-income and higher backgrounds.

Mella said when you looked at state data, it was clear that this was a very good and accurate forecaster of academic success.

The data can be very helpful, Mella suggested.

He showed slides of 20 to 30 individual students – without names, of course, which were simple graphs. One line rose as it went to the right at a moderate, straight-line angle. This was the chart of progress that could be expected for this student.

A second line showed the student’s actual progress during the year.

Here, there was typically a definite rise from the starting point; none started and went downward or even parallel to the horizontal. Many would hit plateaus of one sort or another; but all went markedly up overall, many by a greater than expected amount.

These, Mella said, pulled Plymouth’s scores up.

He added that Plymouth seemed typical of another phenomenon seen by those who follow tests: Instead of student achievements following the traditional bell-curve distribution pattern, he said, they were now consisting of a few really low-achievers and a lot of good to exceptional ones.

“We’re losing the middle,” he said.

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Board President Mark Rhyan said there had been three occurrences recently of the type of action and spirit he loved to see. First was the decision of the cross-country team and coaches to take a turn helping out at the local food pantry, at which teachers were also serving.

Second was the Fairview Walkathon, which this year raised some $7,000 for school field trips and technical advancements.

Third was a sort of cardboard-and-duct-tape hobo village constructed on the Riverview soccer field and occupied by some 125 eighth-graders getting a glimpse of what it would be to be homeless. It was cold, the food was Spartan, and police came and made them move their village.

“They weren’t happy about it,” Rhyan said.

In the morning, another spare meal at a “shelter.”

Rhyan said what he liked about these events was students, teachers and administration going outside the box to benefit the community.

Several policy revisions were considered by the board, which gave them their first reading. They will receive their second reading and probably be adopted next month.

The first – and the only one that directly affects students – formally recognizes that semester exams provide a learning experience by promoting student review of material taught earlier and serve as an evaluation tool of their achievement and allow wide flexibility in their preparation.

The other four policy revisions deal with nuances of school district purchasing – handling petty cash, use of credit cards and local and cooperative purchasing. District Business Manager Jon Miller agreed with board President Rhyan that what the revisions largely did was put in writing ways the district was operating already.

In personnel matters:

• Patti Haese has retired as a special education aide from Riverview after 18 years of service.

• Special education aide Sylvia Hoitink will be retiring in January from Fairview after 20 years’ service to the district.

• Katie Ziegler and Kay Peterson have been hired as special education aides at Parkview.

• Joy Kohlmann and Laura Kryzenske have been hired as special education aides at Riverview.

• • •

The board approved a travel request from Plymouth High School teachers Court Ramaeker and Rommy Herrera to take language students to Costa Rica next June 23 to July 2.

• • •

The board accepted several gifts and donations:

• $15,000 from Van Horn Motors for the PHS automotive department. This is the third and final installment of this donation.

• $200 from Pam Holzhaeuser for the PHS art department.

• $250 from Barbara Hembel and Jerry Hernandez for the PHS drama and choral department.

• $500 for the class of 2014 from Ram Truck and Van Horn Chrysler- Dodge for the Gridiron Challenge fundraiser held in October.

• $100 from Kay Hannes to create a template estimate for the Service Learning students directed by Jim Meinen.

• An anonymous donation of $500 to the Riverview Student Council.

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