District improvement plans are tools districts use to monitor student learning, analyze what is working and what is not, and then make needed changes. The goal is to decrease achievement gaps among groups such as disadvantaged, minority and special education students. Each year since Turner started using this tool, its schools have shown improvement.
Some key findings from Turner’s improvement plan are:
- Special education students need to participate more in classes with other students so as to have full benefit of the curriculum.
- Training teachers to ask better questions can strengthen student performance in reading and math.
- Learning problem-solving skills can help students apply knowledge to their lives outside school.
- There are increasing numbers of disadvantaged students in the district.
- There are increasing numbers of Hispanic students in the district.
- Students are using technology about a third of their time in the classroom.
- Community involvement with the schools — including parent-teacher conferences — is low.
- Both parents and staff think communication needs improvement, especially in the secondary schools.
- Parents and staff also think the curriculum is not rigorous enough.
Some strengths of the district according to the improvement plan:
- English Language Learners have done better in reading over the past three years.
- Student improvement in reading and math has been better than expected.
- Participation in the BOOST program after school has helped improve student performance on standardized testing.
- Participation the Ninth Grade Academy has helped improve student achievement.
- More than half of district staff members have advanced academic degrees.
- More than 10 percent of district staff members are certified to teach English as a second language.
- The graduation rate usually stays above 75 percent.
- Disruptive behavior and discipline referrals have been decreasing.
- Students feel safer at school than they do in the community.
- Tobacco use has decreased.
- Families receive regular newsletters.
- Parent Teacher Associations exist in every school.
- More teachers are differentiating instruction based on varying student needs.
Some challenges for the district:
- There is an achievement gap between special education students and those in the general population.
- The improvement rate for special education students has been inconsistent.
- There is an achievement gap between African-American students and those in other racial and ethnic groups.
- Over summer break, students may forget what they learned during the previous school year.
- Students have had trouble applying their learning to real-world situations.
- Behavior incidents in the secondary schools are increasing.
- Behavior incidents on the buses are increasing.
- An increasing number of young people qualify for free lunches, which means there are more disadvantaged students.
- About a quarter of students report they are exposed to crime and drug use near their homes.
- Teachers perceive a need for more time to collaborate with each other.
- Almost half of parents think school staff members do not listen to them.
- Almost 40 percent of certified teachers think administrators do not listen to their concerns.
- Almost 20 percent of certified teachers think the teaching staff does a fair or poor job modifying instruction based on student test scores.
- Students move around. Almost a quarter of them change homes during the academic year.
What are some ways the improvement plan authors say the district can increase student academic success?:
- Close the achievement gap between special education students and the general population.
- Meet the needs of the growing number of English language learners.
- Teach teachers how to involve students in higher-level learning activities.
- Help students learn better critical thinking skills.
The board meeting, which is open to the public, will take place in the Board Room of the Administrative Service Center; 800 S. 55th St.; Kansas City, KS 66106.
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