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School board struggles with test scores

Staff writer

Silence reigned while Peabody-Burns USD 398 teacher representative Kathy Preheim clicked through slides depicting the district’s 2012 state reading and math assessment scores Monday at the board’s regular meeting. With the exception of only two classes, all the scores were level or lower than results from the previous year.

“It looks like we slid back,” Board member Barry Peter said at the end of the slide presentation. “Is there anything that has changed or that we can point to as the cause of this?”

Interim Superintendent Demitry Evancho said it was very tough for students to make the 70- and 80-point scores projected as state goals, especially in a district that lost funding for improvement as Peabody-Burns did last year.

“It’s a proven fact that for every $1,000 cut by state aid, scores dropped,” Evancho said.

PBHS math teacher and statistical analyst Brian Simmonds said changes in test questions might have played a part in the lack of success for district students.

“Old questions were taken out and replaced with different level questions,” he said. “Those questions may have changed the validity and reliability of the test results.”

Preheim stated that dropping enrollment numbers affected the percent value of each child taking the test.

“Some questions are weighted heavier than others, and in classes with reduced numbers, each child’s answers become more important to the final percentage,” she said.

Evanch said plans by the district to embrace common core curriculum in the coming year would do much to improve student learning in the future.

“We recognize we have our work cut out for us,” he said. “We’ve got to find the right tools, the right ways to get our students to learn.”

In a different discussion, board member Julie Ensminger encouraged other board members to consider adding an additional part-time music teaching position for the coming year to enhance learning on all levels.

The board accepted the resignation of former full-time music teacher Steve Glover with the understanding that he will continue his leadership with the drum and flag corps through the summer.

“We were lucky to have Glover,” Ensminger said. “He was experienced in vocal, instrumental, and a very good pianist. I don’t think we will ever find one person to replace him, well-versed in all those areas, so we are going to need to consider additional help and add on a part-time or even three-quarter-time position to the music department.”

Ensminger’s main concern was that elementary students get adequate exposure to music at an early age to build a foundation for later years, and encourage more participation in high school.

During the 2011-12 school year elementary students received vocal instruction only 30 minutes, two times each week for kindergarten through fifth grade. Fifth grade band students met every school day, but only four or five students signed up to participate.

Junior/Senior High School Principal Tim Robertson said it was important for school board members to recognize the significant impact a basic foundation in music could have on student’s success in all areas.

“I think our K. through grade 5 kids are being shortchanged because of lack of time spent in music education,” he said.

Board members reached a consensus to consider the possibility of adding of a part-time music instructor with emphasis on elementary instruction, and designated Ensminger to represent the board in that research.

In other business:

  • The board accepted maintenance worker Larry Ratzloff’s resignation from duties effective June 1. Ratzloff will continue as substitute bus driver. Roy Young will fill Ratzloff’s vacated maintenance position.
  • Evancho outlined stadium upgrade plans, including fundraiser activities planned for July 4. The bleachers may not be finished by the first home football game this fall, but he was making sure the project was being done right with the goal of long-term maintenance ease in mind.
  • The board voted to give Superintendent Evancho and Clerk Shirley Brooks the authority to conduct year-end transfers to balance out the books, and approved technology purchases up to the amount of $71,000.

Last modified June 13, 2012

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