Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Lester Prairie School making data-driven decisions

January 12, 2009

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

LESTER PRAIRIE, MN – Lester Prairie School administration and staff began working with data-driven decision-making in October and can already see positive results because of their efforts.

Data-driven decisions are based on student information such as academic performance, attendance, and demographics.

This information allows administrators, teachers and parents to accurately assess students’ achievements.

From the assessment, they can make decisions based on the data to improve teaching systems and help to promote student progress.

The volume of data is time-consuming to sort through with a total of 432 students attending Lester Prairie – in the k-6 grades there are 237 students and in seventh through 12th grades there are 195.

The staff at Lester Prairie has been moving forward in teams with action plans to address goals set when they started reviewing students’ state test results last fall.

“Intense help, small groups going by the data-driven information as a result of the testing, then breaking it down to what the students need to assist them to progress,” Superintendent Greg East said.

“Hopefully we will see some progress in the testing results this year,” East said. “Most people want to see instant results, but it is usually a two year process before you start to see significant gains.”

Secondary Principal Scott Fitzsimonds listed three specific changes that have been made to the high school curriculum this year to help students improve their grades.

A new math study skills class is focusing on students who did not do well in seventh grade pre-algebra or students that did not pass eighth grade algebra.

The math study skills teacher and the algebra teacher are working together on this project and are in communication with each other.

“In what I have seen in terms of reports, students are all doing very well and both teachers have said students are doing very well,” Fitzsimonds said in regards to the skills program.

Christine Mattson, school counselor, MCA II testing coordinator and district assessment coordinator, has found that students are appreciative of the class and the extra help given.

“A couple of the students said that without this class, they would not be doing as well in their other classes,” Mattson said. “They would be spending all of their time with their algebra.”

Students taking band and choir in ninth through 12th grade were given a curriculum change, too.

Last year there was a study hall opposite those classes. In place of the study hall, this year, a class in life study skills is being given which counts for a credit.

The class does not meet every day but generates one idea a week promoting organization, time management and study skills.

“This was one of the issues that schools face across the country, and so we began in a small way to address it internally,” East said.

The third curriculum change is having Julie Olson, a full time language arts teacher, finish her reading specialist certification. She is using two hours of the day to work with individual and small groups of students.

“Right away at the beginning of the year, she identified students who needed assistance in their reading by going through NWEA test scores,” Fitzsimonds said. “A couple of times a week she devotes slots of time to working with these students to improve their reading skills.”

Olson has also been working with the students that didn’t pass the state writing test.

Similar to the high school, the elementary school is looking at different strategies it can use in the classroom to help support students in preparation for the upcoming testing period which will start in April, according to Principal Pam Lukens.

Lukens has been working with third to sixth grade students in a revolving type system where teachers identify a student who can use extra support.

“We rotate the subjects and the students kind of revolve in and out,” Lukens said.

Another change for both the high school and elementary is part of Mattson’s time being shared with the elementary.

In the past she was working strictly in the high school. This year she has been going into the elementary classes and working with students.

“Again we are trying to reach out getting to the students and trying to be proactive into the future using the resources we have,” East said

LPAC is a great school resource

One group providing additional resources to the school is the Lester Prairie Advisory Committee (LPAC).

It is made up of parents, administrators, teachers and students.

The LPAC chair is Tracy Jackson and the secretary is Amy Meyer.

“LPAC is very active. They do a great job. It is another way for parents and citizens to be able to be involved in their school system,” East said.

The purpose of the committee is to provide an advisory position on the district’s System Accountability Report (SAR), promote the school district in a positive way, maintain and develop community outreach programs and provide other advisory functions as needed.

One activity LPAC worked on this year was building an e-mail data base, which provides a much faster way to let parents of students, and those that wish to be a part of the system, know what activities are taking place, and other news about the school.

LPAC has been doing fundraisers, too.

Some of its funds will be used to help purchase playground equipment for the preschool and kindergarten area.

LPAC fundraising has also been used to sponsor guest speakers like, Faye Prairie from the Southwest Coop, who will address students on cyber bullying, Monday, Feb. 23.

Prairie will speak to seventh through 12 graders at 1:30 p.m., and address parents and other guests at an assembly in the school auditorium that evening at 6:30 p.m.

LPAC will be hosting its annual carnival March 26 in the school auditorium. More details will be coming.

Next year LPAC will devote its fundraising dollars to help improve school technology.


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