Marshalltown schools receive corrected scores

DoE miscalculated original scores for Rogers, Woodbury

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS Rogers Elementary School second grade teacher Julie Underhill’s students had a good time learning with an educational exercise Thursday afternoon.

Despite marked efforts to improve 2015 Iowa Department of Education Iowa School Report Card scores, Marshalltown Schools officials thought something was strange about Rogers Elementary School’s 2016 score.

“They were at 46.4, that was the original number,” said district Director of Instruction Dr. Lisa Stevenson of Rogers’ score before corrections were made. “With the miscalculation corrected, they’re actually at 68.2, which puts them at ‘commendable.'”

That correction moved Rogers from the lowest report card rating of “priority” to the third-highest rating of commendable.

While Woodbury Elementary School’s corrected score is 53.8 from the originally miscalculated 43.4, they remain in the priority category. However, Stevenson said their correct score is borderline with the next rating up, “needs improvement,” for which the threshold is 54.9.

“I did some calculations and read the technical manual and tried to figure out how [DoE officials] figured what they did, and it just didn’t make sense,” Stevenson said. She then reached out to Area Education Agency 267 and worked with DoE officials to look over the scores, and the problem was found and solved.

“There was an error in our calculations for eight schools (buildings) statewide,” said DoE Chief of the Bureau of Information and Analysis Services Jay Pennington. “There was an exception in our program that wasn’t accounted for.”

He said there are three “gap measures” that make up one part of the final report card score, each measuring the gap in achievement between various groups of students.

“We have one (gap measure) called the program gap, which includes free-and-reduced price lunch, students with disabilities and ELL students… the other two (gap measures) focus on “are you closing the achievement gap between student groups?'”

He said the program used to calculate the final report card score missed a gap measure exception, accounting for the miscalculation at Rogers and Woodbury as well as the other six school buildings in the state.

“In some cases, we’ve got these ‘majority-minority’ schools, and that’s what you’re seeing in those two schools in particular, they only have that third gap measure, and they don’t have the other two,” he said, referring to Rogers and Woodbury.

“Through our quality-assurance process, we missed this scenario, which resulted in an impact to eight schools.”

While eight incorrect school building scores out of about 1,300 across the state may seem, small, Stevenson and Pennington said they can have a negative impact on school buildings and their districts.

With the scores of all the school buildings in the Marshalltown district correct, Stevenson said there are plans for improvement.

“We are always working as a team of six elementaries, they each have their own distinct ways of addressing [problems],” she said, adding some aspects of Rogers’ system may work at other elementary schools.

Specifically, Stevenson said options to help improve the elementary schools include looking at supplemental tutoring after school, the summer programs that are offered, the professional development opportunities available and teachers’ background experiences.

“Each (elementary school) building has an instructional coach, they meet monthly to talk about issues in their buildings and ways they support teachers and literacy,” Stevenson said. “The building principals meet monthly with me and we go over concerns or curriculum questions.”

Input from the DoE will come later this month when officials visit Woodbury, Anson Elementary School and Lenihan Intermediate School for the “differentiated accountability” or “DA” process.

Stevenson said the DA visit will provide further feedback on how K-6 literacy can be improved at Marshalltown Schools, as well as what may be currently be working.

“We’ve been working on that as a district since September, trying to look at what our reading data tells us and what’s working,” Stevenson said, adding there are simultaneous efforts to increase the English-speaking levels for some students.

She also said the literacy program Lexia Reading Core5 is helping to continue challenging high-achieving students while also helping boost literacy skills lower-performing students.

On the seventh- to 12th-grade level, Stevenson said the DoE is developing a plan for screening students in reading and monitoring their progress.

“We’re kind of in a ‘wait and see’ mode right now,” she said.

While it’s good news for the district that the two incorrect building scores have been fixed, Stevenson said their impact is not to be taken lightly.

“It matters, that report card was important to our community,” she said, adding district schools are growing in the right direction. “We still have a lot of room to grow.”