Weekly Feature

2010-11-24 / Education

Academic intervention increased in district

Amherst Schools
by PATRICK J. NAGY Reporter

A change in what is considered proficient — 3 or better — on state assessment scores in math and English language arts has resulted in an increase in academic intervention services at the middle and high schools in the Amherst Central School District.

In a presentation at the Nov. 16 School Board meeting, trustees learned that in using the new cut scores, middle school students’ proficiency in math and ELA was low, resulting in 181 additional students requiring the intervention services from the 2009-10 to 2010-11 school year.

Middle School Principal Michael Cornell said most of those students were absorbed into the district’s ELA and math labs, raising the number of students per lab from five to 10. A couple of labs have as many as 13 students.

“That was the best way for us to incorporate those students without totaling overloading a single part of the system,” said Cornell.

He said the rest are distributed through academic support periods and rest periods.

Cornell said each team dedicates meeting times to review, collaborates daily on instruction and makes sure learning issues are not caused by instructional issues.

“That is why response to intervention

X is important to us,” said Cornell. “It makes sure we provide outstanding instruction to every student every day based on what we know works. We’re also fortunate we have the essential elements of instruction that provides for us a common language for our conversations.”

“These meetings happen at least once a week, if not twice, where they specifically talk about instruction happening in classrooms,” he said. “Teachers act as critical friends and make sure the lessons and assessments are appropriate. It’s nice for an English teacher to look at the lessons of a math teacher.

That collaboration between teachers has been helpful to make sure that when we start to identify learning issues, we know that they’re learning issues and not necessarily instructional issues.”

Cornell said the middle school staff needs to intervene when students struggle with a greater level of sophistication because of the large numbers of students in the system. He said the school plans to do that by developing comparable and reportable data from regular classroom assessments throughout the year via a program called eDoctrina.

According to Cornell, the program will allow teachers to measure the effectiveness of each intervention for each student, allows students to analyze their own learning, and helps families understand their child’s needs and strengths and build on them.

“It will allow us to create our own data warehouse for Amherst Middle School,” said Cornell. “By the time we have it fully implemented, any teacher can get standards based data on any exam they give, and that includes performances assessments and essays. It’s fabulous program.”

The staff will begin training with the program in December.

“The hope is, by the time we move to year two and year three, we’ll get to the point where teachers are continuing using standards-based data to act upon areas needed in mastery,” said Cornell.

High School Principal Greg Pigeon said his building was not as directly affected by the cut scores because they weren’t across the board in all of the Regents exams, instead affecting only math and ELA.

“Our focus was on shifting, adjusting and monitoring what was going to go on with the incoming freshmen,” said Pigeon.

Based on results of eighth-grade assessment scores in math and ELA, 55 students in math and 56 in ELA scored below proficiency and required intervention. Nine of the students have moved to private schools.

The number would have been 39 fewer students in math and 20 fewer in ELA had the state not changed the cut scores in July after the test was administered, said Pigeon.

Pigeon said the intervention services are given to students who scored 1 and 2 on assessment tests but also for students coming out of eighth grade who scored a 3, based on teacher recommendations.

“That is one of the reasons we were able to absorb the majority of these students relatively easil

y, ” said Pigeon.

A majority of the AIS math students are placed in an algebra developmental Regents program and a lab, some are placed in a pre-algebra program with a lab that combines eighth- and ninth-grade math curricula, and a handful of students enter a Regents program that is monitored by a tutor and given support from a counselor, existing teacher and Pigeon.

A majority of the AIS ELA students are placed in English developmental Regents programs, a developmental program with a reading program or, for stronger students, a Regents program with an ELA lab, Regents with a reading program or the honors program.

The high school also has 24 students needing AIS services in social studies and 19 in science. The school offers developmental Regents programs for both subjects. A science prep course, a pre-Earth science course mixing eighth-grade and ninth-grade curricula, is also available.

Some ongoing and new initiatives at the high school include: response to intervention; ongoing collaboration with the middle school; nova net, a program for students to recover lost academic credits; and maximizing multimedia instruction with new projectors, document cameras and Web-based tools.

In another matter, the English 11 Regents assessment will be held on Jan. 11, about two weeks earlier than when other Regents exams are scheduled.

The board’s future goal-setting meetings are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday Dec. 2, and Tuesday, Jan. 4 and Feb. 8.

e-mail: pnagy@beenews.com

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