BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A freshly released report that identifies state school districts’ performances against federal benchmarks has given Fort Madison School District something to celebrate this holiday season.
According to information released by the Iowa Department of Education this week, a report called the Iowa School Performance Profile identified state school districts that are in need of comprehensive support, which is based on overall performance, or “Targeted” support which is based on performance of certain student subgroups. No Fort Madison schools were listed as needing that support and were shown to have student performances that exceed the benchmarks for requiring improvement plans.
Fort Madison High School had the highest overall score in the district with a 52.65. The state overall average is 54.91. The three other remaining schools all had a 51.3 score based on a perfect score of 100. The performance ratings, or scores, are complex combined values based on spring Iowa Assessment tests, and a survey taken by students from 5th grade to 12th grade in each district and then are priority weighted.
Schools that have an overall performance of 43.95 or less and are funded with federal Title 1 funds are considered in need of ‘Comprehensive’ support. A subgroup within each school that performs under 43.95 would be considered “Targeted” for state support.
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The state has pledged $6 million in additional funding to help those districts with schools on the “Targeted” or “Comprehensive” lists.
Each school in the district, FMHS, FMMS, and Richardson and Lincoln elementaries all ranked high enough to not be identified as needing improvement plans per the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, that replaced the No Child Left Behind mandate put in place during the George W. Bush presidency. President Barack Obama signed ESSA into law in 2015 and the new benchmarks went into effect in 2017.
Kim Harmon, the district’s curriculum director, said it’s a strong reflection of how the district is performing in educating the students.
“I would say there’s nothing in here that comes as a surprise to us. These are all things we are already planning for,” Harmon said.
The system is transitioning in to replace the Iowa Schools Report Card. This year they are doing the report card and performance profiles, but Harmon said the state will move to the performance profiles next year with a different assessment tool in the spring.
“This is a good indication of the hard work the teachers have done and where student learning is in Fort Madison,” said Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater. “We use it as a data point, but we also use continuous assessments to see where students are right now. This leads to a dialogue about what are we doing well and what do we need to improve on.”
According to the state’s performance as a whole, including its 1,302 schools, 34 have been identified as needing ‘comprehensive’ support and 304 have one or more ‘targeted’ subgroups. Southeast Iowa schools on the “Comprehensive” list include Burlington’s Blackhawk, Sunnyside, and Grimes Elementary Schools.
On the “Targeted” list, schools in southeast Iowa include Burlington’s Edward Stone and Aldo Leopold Middle Schools, Burlington High School, and Corse Elementary School; Central Lee Middle School; Danville Elementary School; Davis County Middle School; Fairfield Middle School; Keokuk High School, and George Washington Elementary School; Mt. Pleasant Middle School and Van Allen Elementary School; New London Jr./Sr. High School; Pekin Middle School; Lincoln Upper Elementary and Washington Middle School in Washington; and Winfield-Mt. Union Elementary and Jr./Sr. High schools.
West Burlington, WACO, Wapello, Mediapolis, and Van Buren joined Fort Madison as area districts without any schools on the two support lists.
Harmon said the state has a process for those schools identified as ‘targeted’ or ‘comprehensive’ to go through a self assessment.
“We’re going to do that anyway. We don’t have to… we don’t have to create a plan, but we know it’s going to be a best practice,” Harmon said. “The high school has already taken a team and started that process and we’ve had great conversations and learned a lot.”
Slater agreed saying the school doesn’t qualify for the extra layer of support, but it will engage in that process because the district wants to have students learn at high levels and make sure that’s being evaluated.
The Iowa School Performance Profiles display scores based on a school’s overall performance, as well as the performance of subgroups of students, such as students with disabilities. The measures are: Student participation on state assessments, academic achievement, student academic growth, graduation rate, progress in achieving English language proficiency, and Conditions for Learning, an indicator of school climate based on student surveys taken by 5th – 12th grade students. Subgroups would be identified as male/female, students on free or reduced lunches, students with disabilities, grouped by race, multi-racial students and English Learners, those whose first language is not English. Fort Madison didn’t have the required minimum of 20 respondents in the English Learners therefore that didn’t qualify as a subgroup.
Some of the measures are weighted heavier than others. The academic growth including math and reading, which was the profile’s focus this year, are weighted at 26.4% of the overall score. To show the emphasis on growth, all the other measures are weighted in single digits.
“It just reinforces what we know on a daily basis, that we have a very hard working and talented staff that have the best interests of kids in mind each and every day. I think this just reflects that,” Harmon said.
Slater sent out an email to all district parents on Wednesday outlining the district’s performance on the profiles.
“This performance ranking is a distinction from many other schools in our area, so be proud to be a Bloodhound! We are excited to improve and build on the great things we have going on here at FMCSD. Together we can continue to learn, grow, and achieve great things!,” Slater wrote parents.
The link to the profiles can be found at https://www.iaschoolperformance.gov/Home/Index. Once on the site, type in Fort Madison in the open window and five drop downs can be selected, one for the district as a whole and one for each school.