Town Crier

WILMINGTON — As­sistant Superintendent Christine Elliott and K-5 STEM Coordinator Mi­chelle LeVesque brought reading and mathematical universal screening data for the School Com­mittee meeting last Wed­nesday night.

Elliott opened by ex­plaining the process for their data collection in­cluding regular screening test intervals in the fall, winter, and spring, followed by data meetings with educators, meetings with grade-level teams, identifications of students needing additional support, and progress meetings after that.

LeVesque shared the assessments used for math, which were the Savvas progress monitoring for kindergarten and Savvas MSDA for grades 1-5. These were led with the help of general education math tutors who serviced 194 students, and classroom teachers giving targeted instruction to another 238 students.

Looking at the assessment answers throughout the year, they saw an increase in students who met or exceeded expectations in all grades, up to an average of 90 percent by spring. She credited the improvements to teachers and instruction in the classroom.

Elliott described the as­sessments used for reading, which included the Benchmark Assessment System for grades k-5 and the additional Aimsweb as­sessment for kindergarten through second grade. She assured the committee that these are just the universal screeners given to everyone, and students identified with concerns receive other additional screeners. In kindergarten and grades 2-4, they saw trends for meeting expectation moving in the right direction as the year went on.

Grades one and five were identified for focus via additional support for reading. Elliott said that grade one appeared to have the greatest academic impact from the pandemic. One effort that they would make to ac­com­modate students in need for next year that Elliott mentioned is to arrange reading specialists and staffing to make sure that gains can be made in grade one students.

For grade five, she said they already began identifying curriculum issues, intervention materials needed, staff feedback, and professional development for small group strategy instruction to help for next year.

In the staff feedback that Elliott and LeVesque sought, they asked staff what worked well with the universal screenings and data meeting process and what additional resources would be helpful for the future. Some element of the process that staff and teachers seemed to enjoy were time to collaborate and meet as teams and looking at Wilmington compared to national data.

“These data meetings helped teachers feel valued,” LeVesque said.

Among next steps, Elli­ott named a universal screenings process calendar, developing professional development based on the feedback, an intervention library, and identifying areas of curriculum or pacing for im­provement.

The committee’s initial feedback was that this work was crucial and the data transformative.

Chair Dr. Jenn Bryson said, “This is a huge move forward for our district.”

Melissa Plowman said that she especially appreciated the extra support for teachers throughout the process.

Stephen Turner asked whether they would look at the tier system and summer drop-off in the beginning of the year to see how students compare. Elliott replied that they would bring the data into next year and that teachers had sent home materials and letters to parents in that regard.

Plowman shared that her biggest concern was for 5th graders going into 6th grade next year and how they would transition. Elliott referenced a goal from the middle school program review to introduce tiered interventions, and her intention to bring the same level of reading specialist support to the middle school.

One other effort she spoke to was the recent full implementation of a reading screener with regular intervals at the middle school.

Jay Samaha wondered if the committee should consider the potential impact on students should the general education tutor positions go away when the ESSER grants funding them run out, if they don’t create another funding source for those positions. He also asked how families are notified of their students falling behind the expectations.

Elliott said it’s usually a phone call and a permission slip for tier 2 interventions and updates following the progress monitoring period.

Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand ended this section by saying that this process truly involved carefully looking at the data with room for teachers to contribute as well. He also said the engagement of staff was rich and the work important. He ag­reed with Samaha’s suggestion that they would need funding moving forward to sustain the tutor positions and thanked El­liott and LeVesque for their leadership and commitment to these efforts.

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