MURRAY — Principals of the Murray Independent School District presented their respective school’s plans to address identified learning gaps within their student bodies at the board meeting Thursday. Kentucky law requires site-based decision-making boards to set goals each year to close achievement gaps.
Benchmarks for each goal were established based on the results of the 2021 Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) test. All schools seek to improve scores for the Hispanic and African American subgroups. In addition, students with disabilities have been identified as a target group among primary and secondary students and economically disadvantaged students have been identified among secondary students.
Principal of Murray Elementary School, Denise Whitaker, said: ‘(Third graders) are the only ones taking the state test, but I want you all to know that what we’re trying to focus on , is that each grade level – K, first, second and third – all work towards 70% or 75% of students being proficient/distinguished.
“We found kindergarten is where we need to focus,” Whitaker noted. “With those students who didn’t have preschool or daycare last year, our Brigance scores (this year) were a little lower than we liked.”
The state requires that the Brigance assessment be given to kindergartens within the first 30 days of the school year. Due to the deficits seen in the current kindergarten class, Whitaker said the MES is working to provide additional support for future kindergartens next year.
“We do a lot of monthly kits and monthly checklists for parents. We started in December with Future Tiger Night. They came on January 3 to pick up packages,” Whitaker said. “It’s a great indicator of success and how well they arrive at kindergarten ready and ready to learn.”
Whitaker praised the school’s intervention teachers, Ms Forrester and Ms Jones, who work with small groups, as well as one-on-one with students who need extra support. She thanked the board for providing the school with funding to create a new interventionist position; however, she indicated that the conditions of the Read to Achieve grant that the MES used to employ the other interventionist will no longer allow the school to use the funds in this way.
“This grant has been totally changed this year to be for teacher professional development only and not for a teacher (position),” Whitaker said. “So we’re upset about it right now, but we’ll manage. We hope that (the new interventionist position) will continue next year because being out of two interventionists would not be good for our school.
MISD Superintendent Coy Samons noted that the decision to change the Read to Achieve grant was made by the Department of Education and said he had not been given a “satisfactory reason” for the change.
Murray Middle School also received funding from the board which they used to create two new positions.
“I want to go back about a year to this time last year,” MMS director Bob Horne said. “Mr. Samons and his incredible council staff have engaged in conversation with the principals about what we will need for this current school year, realizing that we are going to have children behind (for) reasons that are not their fault So we offered two new positions in our school and they had a huge impact in helping to bridge the gap with our current children.
MMS has promoted Shelley Green Stubblefield to the newly created position of fourth and fifth year assistant principal. Lindsey Crane has been appointed as the Response Response Coordinator (RTI).
Stubblefield and Crane explained how they use RTI to bridge learning gaps. It is a three-tier system. The first level is the general education classroom; the second level is small group instruction; and the third level is for students who require more intensive interventions.
The school uses MAP test results to assess students’ learning needs. Students’ scores in math and reading are ranked according to percentiles, and those with the lowest scores are ranked at level three.
Crane said she and her assistants assess students to determine their specific learning needs.
“Based on those assessments, we place these students in an inquiry-based program — one for reading and one for math — and then we use those programs to drive our teaching with those students,” Crane said. “We monitor them every two weeks to track their progress and see how these interventions are working and (to identify) any changes we may need to make.”
“Every five to six weeks teachers, administrators, guidance counselors and the RTI team (meet) and talk about these level three students and their data,” Stubblefield added. “We leave the children if they show a lot of progress; we keep the children if they need this consistency; and children who concern us or who are not progressing as much as we would like, we modify our intervention plan for them.
“Our RTI groups are fluid and we are constantly reviewing individual student needs,” Crane advised. “We can move students from group to group, based on those needs and to help bridge learning gaps with those students.”
Specifically, MMS seeks to reduce the gaps in reading achievement between white and Hispanic subgroups by 10% over the next three years. In the fourth and fifth year, the difference between these groups is 26.6%. Achieving the target would reduce this gap to 20%. From the sixth to the eighth year, the difference is 15%; the objective is to bring it down to 13.5%.
“The number I would ask you to compare would be the four/five gap of 26.6% with the upper grades from sixth to eighth; their difference is only 15%. This tells us that our current interventions and strategies already used with the (Hispanic) subgroup are working,” said Horne. “The closer they get to eighth grade, clearly we want them to be grade level and ready for high school when they leave our building.”
Whitney York, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction at MISD, presented on behalf of Murray High School Principal Tony Jarvis.
MHS has identified three goals: improve science achievement for all students, improve math and reading achievement among the African-American subgroup, and improve reading achievement for all male students.
Board member Shawn Smee, who is also director of recruiting for Murray State University, said, “With the thousands of transcripts we see in our office, it’s regional. …Specifically in men, the grades that come in…it’s totally awful at best – in math and science, in particular.
“(MHS faculty) have reviewed the program in many of these areas to ensure that it is attractive to all of these student subgroups. Students have access to literature and books in their English lessons that reflect their own backgrounds and interests,” York said, noting that this is just one example of efforts to bridge gaps. learning gaps.
York also talked about “credit recovery,” the process by which MHS helps students earn credits they failed to earn last school year.
“We knew we were going to have a lot of classes that our students (would) need to recover,” she said. “In high school, counselors checked each child’s transcript this year when they arrived. … They strategically chose as few blocks as possible in this child’s schedule to put him on credit recovery in order to recover those credits.”
“It was a little different before,” York added. “We used to put students in two English (classes) to make up this one, but we have quite a few students who had to do one English, one math and one science.”
“The concern in high school is getting those credits so they can graduate. So it’s a totally different thing there. Now we have to actually invent them,” York said. “Hopefully we don’t see (decline in graduation rates) because that’s what the credit recovery process will prevent from happening.”
Among other business, the board approved site-based decision-making council allocations for each school for the 2022-23 school year.
Samons noted that these were general allocations and did not include special education or district-wide programs. The MES stipend of approximately $2 million is based on 555 students. MMS will receive $1.8 million, based on 649 students. MHS will receive $1.6 million, based on 527 students, which Samons noted will be the highest high school enrollment “in some time.” The current senior class has 88 students; while the current eighth grade has 148 students.
Before approving the consent program, Samons drew the council’s attention to the increase in adult meal prices. He explained that the mid-year price increase for adult meals is a requirement to participate in the seamless summer option through the National School Meals Scheme.
“I recommend that we continue as long as it is offered to stay in the seamless summer option for our district. I just wanted you to know what this change is,” he said and noted, “It’s a huge increase for adults.
Effective today, the price of an adult breakfast has increased from $2 to $2.90, adult lunches have increased from $3 to $4.85. Student meals will continue to be provided free of charge.