School district seeks to improve vertically and horizontally

May 19, 2010

By Laura Geggel

Every year, Snoqualmie Valley schools make a school improvement plan. Now, the school district is forming a districtwide improvement plan that will affect all grades and all 10 schools.

“We have this notion institutionalized in our schools — we are always looking for a better way and a steady continuous improvement over time,” Superintendent Joel Aune said at the May 13 school board meeting.

The plan, the Intervention Program Review, would target special-education students, struggling learners and highly capable students.

Programs involved in the review also include the Learning Assistance Program, Title I Program (for students from low-income families), English Language Learners, intervention programs for struggling students, the K-8 Highly Capable Program, and the high school Advanced Placement and honors program.

Student Services Director Nancy Meeks said she was excited that the review might lead to a more incorporated special-education department.

“Special education needs to move from being a silo, a standalone, to being part of general education,” Meeks said.

The district hopes to implement the review in the three- to five-year period.

“It’s a full, level marathon. It’s not a 100-yard dash,” Aune said.

In preparing for the review, school administrators met with principals and teachers.

They identified several of the district’s strengths, including early release Fridays, which allow for teacher and department collaboration, various reading and literacy programs, and homework and tutoring programs.

Even with such programs, district officials found several gaps in which students’ needs were not being met.

Most of the gaps show work needs to be done in meeting the needs of struggling learners, especially those who do not qualify for special education, but still need help.

Other gaps include comprehensive services for English language learners, programming for students with extreme behavior issues and students who need math help.

Yet another gap — and a big one — is aligning consistency among the three middle schools.

“The larger we get, the more we’re going to have to look at putting good, strong systems in place,” Aune said.

Review recommendations

The review has several recommendations that address the district’s shortfalls.

They include program alignment, focused collaboration, increased math help and a districtwide data-tracking system.

The review’s authors also recommend that district officials work to ease transitions and communications between elementary, middle and high schools.

“We have to be aligned vertically as well as horizontally,” Deputy Superintendent Don McConkey said.

He said the district had to focus on rebuilding its highly capable program, which lost one of its two elementary teachers this year due to budget cuts. McConkey said the district was planning to expand the Hi-C program to middle school students, as well.

In another recommendation, the review’s authors suggested the district examine Two Rivers School.

District officials might rethink Two Rivers’ four-day week and try to better align its curriculum with Mount Si High School.

Aune said he noticed that few students transfer to Mount Si after they attend Two Rivers, and he said he wanted to make that transition easier if students were thinking of making that leap.

As for Mount Si, the review suggested the school increase its communication between departments, expand its support and intervention programs, and improve at identifying struggling students.

“What can we do at Mount Si to be more nimble?” Aune asked.

School principals and teachers are expected to incorporate the review’s recommendations into their school improvement plans starting this fall.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 221, or lgeggel@snovalleystar.com. Comment at www.snovalleystar.com.

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