December 2, 2016
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released the School Accountability Report Cards on November 17. The Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District received the following scores:
Ø NOW Elementary School: 78.8 – Exceeding Expectations
Ø Brookwood Jr. & Sr. High School: 60.8 – Meets Few Expectations
Ø NOW School District: 68.5 – Meets Expectations
In looking at improving instruction and student achievement at the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District, school district administration and teachers first look at what we are teaching. Several years ago, the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District aligned its Reading, English/Language Arts, and Mathematics curriculum with the standards that state-mandated testing would be based on. Recently, Social Studies and Science have also been aligned. Therefore, the School District has aligned its curriculum to the assessments used by the State of Wisconsin to determine student achievement and growth.
The next item the School District assesses is how the curriculum is instructed to the students. This is being appraised at all grade and subject levels of instruction. Staff development opportunities are being made available to staff members in
Ø English Language Learning instruction
Ø Use of instruction technology in the classroom
Ø Better mathematical literacy instruction to students
Ø CESA #4 in-services to improve instruction in areas identified in the Professional Performance Goals or identified by administration as an area of need
Ø Educator Effectiveness staff evaluations
The next item the District analyzes is how the staff supports academic achievement for students. Once again, this is an ongoing appraisal in both the Elementary School and Jr. & Sr. High School. There are regular support programs in place at the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District to aid students in academic achievement:
Ø Title I
Ø English Language Learning Services
Ø Reading Interventionist
Ø CLC After-School Program
Ø Instructional Coaching
Ø School Improvement Meetings
Ø Academic Time for more individualized student help from teachers
Ø Individual student academic interventions as required by a student’s IEP or RTI plan
Another item the administrative team evaluates is how the district prepares students to take the state-mandated exams. The days of using a #2 pencil and blacking out ovals on a form are gone as all state testing is completed on-line. Therefore, making sure students have the appropriate keyboard skills is necessary to maximize student performance on the test. Also, providing students with practice at taking tests and assessing the schedules for testing are other items that are reviewed by administration when looking to increase student performance.
The strengths and positive aspects of the Accountability Report Cards are that it identifies academic achievement and growth in English Language Arts and Mathematics. It gives the School District data regarding which areas within Math or Reading/Language Arts need to strengthen instruction. It also gives the School District data about certain student target groups—high poverty, ELL, or Special Needs—where academic performance is or is not meeting standards established by the State of Wisconsin. The administration and teachers here at the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District are given ample opportunity to appraise and assess student achievement data to help make decisions based on the best educational interests of all students.
There are some weaknesses in the Accountability Report Cards. A rural school district like Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton has a small sample size of students. A small sample size means easier fluctuations in student performance. It only takes a handful of students to change the accountability score for better or for worse, which blurs the accuracy on how the school district is performing. Secondly, the Accountability Report Card has a new formula which gives value-added scores for growth of the specific target groups stated above. Student growth scores is a large reason why the Elementary School scored where it did (Exceeding Expectations) and the Jr. & Sr. High School scored where it did (Meeting Few Expectations). Data is being analyzed to determine if the growth score is due to high-performing students not having significant academic growth or due to lower-performing students not having significant academic growth. Students who are reading and performing math above or well above grade level and not having significant growth is one thing; students reading or performing math below grade level and not having significant growth is another.
The Vision Statement of the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District specifies that the district is committed to creating a safe and positive school environment so that all students can experience both academic and personal growth. Everything discussed in this message is in regards to our students’ academic growth. However, the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District takes the responsibility of the personal growth of students seriously as well. Besides encouraging achievement, our district also encourages respect, responsibility, caring, and trust. To this end, the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District commits part of its budget to character education, education on the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, Education for Employment, and other activities to aid our students to be productive workers and citizens once they graduate from Brookwood High School. The School District also focuses on community outreach activities. These things are not measured on the School Accountability Report Card.
It is easy to be happy with the NOW Elementary Accountability results. I congratulate Elementary Principal Gayle Luebke and the Elementary staff on the splendid Accountability score. On the other hand, it is easy to be upset with the Brookwood Jr. & Sr. High School Accountability results. The results are what they are; they can’t be changed. The quest to improve academic performance of all our students is continuous regardless of the Accountability score. The School District will strive to educate each child to the maximum of his or her ability while providing opportunities for each child to experience personal growth. Once the School District has lost that intention, the district becomes stagnant. Once it becomes stagnant, lower test scores are the inevitable result. As the Superintendent of the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District, I can assure all parents and taxpayers that the district will continue to look to improve its Accountability Report Card scores. Our administration and teachers will continue to look at improving academic achievement for all our students who attend the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District.
If you have any questions regarding any of the operations or policies of the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District, please give me a call at (608) 337-4403, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.