There are 1,109 students enrolled in Valley City Public Schools this year, who have several hundred parents or guardians. However, as the principals of the four schools in the district gave a presentation to parents and the general public about the district failing to meet federal academic requirements, only two parents showed up: School board member Rich Ross and St. Catherine’s fifth-grade teacher Dawn Ihry.
The meeting was a requirement of federal government mandated “School Improvement Plan” that the district must undergo for failing to meet “Adequate Yearly Progress,” in reading and math proficiency. AYP is the measuring stick for the No Child Left Behind Act, and the school district and the junior high school failed to meet the goals for reading proficiency.
Superintendent Dean Koppelman said three different notices were sent to parents, and he understands how people could overlook the meeting, but called the turnout “disappointing.”
“Do I wish more people were here? Sure, I wish the room was full, but I understand that people have busy lives and schedules and so on,” Koppelman said.
“This, to me, is important information about our district, but I’ve said that a number of times over the years with school board meetings. We put out those agendas and there’s all kinds of important topics about our district and typically, we might have one, two or three people in our audience.”
During the presentation, the four principals gave reports on their respective schools and what they will do to reach AYP, or in the case of both elementary schools, maintain their AYP proficiency status.
Washington Elementary Principal Wayne Denault said parental involvement is vital to his school.
“Parents... that’s the key component to the School Improvement Plan,” Denault said. “We have our Back To School Night where we try to get as many parents in, and usually we run about 40 percent. This year we had it a little bit earlier and had about 60 percent of the parents in, which is good.”
Jefferson Elementary Principal Troy Miller said his kindergarten through third-grade students usually do well on the State Assessment tests. The tests start in third grade and go through the eighth grade. Students are then tested again as high school juniors.
Jefferson had a greater than 95 percent proficiency rate.
“We’re pretty proud of our results at Jefferson School,” Miller said, adding that students of in that age group take the test more seriously.” We do some things like a pep rally before the State Assessment that we feel lets the kids no how important it is to try their best. We offer some test-taking tips to help kids to better on the State Assessment.
Senior High Principal Kristi Brandt and Junior High Principal Dan Larson had an extensive list of what faculty, administration and staff have planned at the junior and senior high schools. On the top of the list was using a data coach to analyze the State Assessment and Measure of Academic Progress Test data to provide a snapshot achievement of students, classrooms, departments, grade levels and schools. LaCosta Potter, an analyst out of Fargo, has been hired to fulfill that role, and will visit the school once a week to work with staff at the schools.
High school teachers will also be setting aside some time for academic intervention to give support to struggling students.
“There’s a whole host of reasons why kids aren’t getting the knowledge,” Brandt said. “We’re trying to build, within their day, a time when they can specifically meet with a teacher who is an expert in that area (they are struggling in) to give them help or support.”
Koppelman said he has seen good things arise in Valley City Public Schools after 10 years of working through the NCLB Act’s requirements.
“We were one of the last, if not the last, large school district in our state to be identified for school improvement, so we can be feeling good about that. Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, you name it, all those large school districts have been in school improvement for a year or two or three longer than we have, so we can feel good about that,” he said.
“Something that this No Child Left Behind Act has done is it has created accountability for school districts and it’s caused school districts to examine what it is we’re doing in the area of student growth and student learning. I think we’re heading now towards a time period where states will begin to look at student growth, a growth model versus a set test level for every student to reach. I think we’re heading in a right direction this way.”