Arcadia schools set long term educational goals

Leaders in the Arcadia School District shared how they plan to improve academic performance and personal connections at each school building during a presentation at the district school board meeting last Monday.

The goals are part of each school’s improvement plan, which is tied to the district improvement plan released about a year ago. The continuous improvement plan will be revisited every three months, Superintendent Lance Bagstad said, and will run until 2024 to try to gauge and strive for improvement.

Carmen Lee, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the district, said each building principal was asked to create two goals — one that is focused on future readiness and another focused on learning culture.

Lee said there isn’t much for data right now regarding the goals because the district is early in the process, but that will be shared at future meetings.

Elementary school

Reading and a positive learning environment are at the forefront for the district’s youngest learners. By the end of the 2024 school year, the district hopes its elementary school will:

• Double the percentage of students reading at proficiency to 54 percent as measured by the STAR assessment.

• Increase use of asset-based language (growth mindset) to become problem solvers and improve teacher efficacy based on a survey.

Paul Halverson, elementary principal, said the district implemented a new reading curriculum for its youngest students. If the kids take to the curriculum like they did the Bridges math curriculum a few years ago, Halverson said they will have success.

“Third and fourth are just a little reluctant, probably because those kids have not had this program before. It’s just like Bridges, K-2 right away loving it, third and fourth hating it. But now third and fourth love our math, so we’re hoping to see that change (in reading).”

The school is also implementing a self-selected reading period in its classrooms with the hope of helping students find a passion and interest in books.

“Our students need to get books in their hands. The volume of reading that needs to get done needs improvement in our school. And we feel that we can do that with self-selected reading time,” Halverson said.

Bridges requires students to talk through how they reached an answer and uses hands-on problem solving, which should help with the growth mindset goal, Halverson said, and the new reading curriculum could help there, too.

The curriculums ask students to work in groups more, which could also help with positive thinking and reinforcement from teachers and peers.

Middle school

Staff at the middle school set their goals surrounding math proficiency and disciplinary issues.

By the end of the 2024 school year, the middle school aims to:

• Increase student proficiency by 10 percent in every grade level on the math portion of the Wisconsin Forward test.

•  Decrease referrals for classroom disruptions by 10 percent. 

The math goal relies on curriculum changes, as the district implemented a new fifth grade curriculum called Bridges as well as a new Illustrative Mathematics (IM) curriculum for grades six through eight. The IM curriculum relies on hands-on and visual aids to teach math.

The class period for math was also doubled from 45 minutes to 90 minutes this year, principal Andrea Eisner told the board, which allows teachers more time for the creative lessons and gives students time to work in groups and model problem solving.

Eisner said the school hopes to increase student math confidence as well because they know that math can be a difficult subject.

“It’s really the notion that math is hard sometimes, and you just kind of have stamina to plow through it. We have different strategies one student might use versus another. So it’s just building confidence in students that we don’t give up. And there’s not one way to do math. But there’s many ways to do math,” she said.

Board member Brian Steinlicht asked how the increased math periods are going so far this year, to which Eisner said teachers are seeing a difference. 

“Our teachers have, just observing as they’re doing lessons, they’re getting much more done. Because before the block was too short. ... so teachers are feeling more comfortable that they’re not rushed with the lesson,” she said.

The district also hopes to reduce classroom disruptions because they have seen growth over the last two years, Eisner said. About 74 percent of office referrals this year and last have come from the classroom whereas in the past most of these incidents have occured in common areas such as hallways, the cafeteria or at recess.

Issues are more spread out among different kids this year opposed to a few kids causing most of the disruption last year, Eisner told the board.

One area the school hopes to improve upon is knowing exactly what the disruption is and being more descriptive and accurate when teachers are reporting disruptions and misbehavior, Eisner said, adding that the data is reviewed each month to assess where the school can intervene.

Relationship building is a big part of reducing those disruptions, she said, because students don’t want to act out when they respect and have a connection with their teachers.

High school

Arcadia High School leaders set their goals on the ACT test as well as comprehension. Their goals are:

• Average a composite score of 17 on the ACT by 2024, a jump from their current average of 16.3.

• Increase student understanding of teacher explanation to 75 percent as measured by student perception surveys.

The ACT scores should be helped by the new illustrative math curriculum, and a new WIN (What I need) class period at the school that allows students to take practice ACT tests as well as receive focused instruction for areas in which they struggle, should also help, Lee said.

Teachers are also working to implement language that is used on the test into their curriculum, such as showing students the difference between summarizing and synthesizing information.

Students are also looking at their practice ACT test scores with a staff member to look at what areas they can focus on to improve their score on the real test.

“They’re going to be focusing and helping the students to goal-set within one of the four domains. ... Maybe it’s ‘I need to really focus on comma skills.’ So now I know specifically, I’m going to work on commas as a student, so that I can work on getting 10 more of those right versus it being this overwhelming task of ‘I have to increase my ACT score,’” Lee said.

As for understanding teachers, Lee said the focus was created after a student survey last year showed they didn’t always know what was being asked of them.

“Last year students took the survey and it was an area that kind of stood out to them as saying ‘If our students are saying that they’re not really understanding what the teachers are asking them at that point, that’s something we really want to work on to increase our culture and increase learning.’” 

A new survey will be sent to students soon to see if they are understanding learning targets, Lee said.

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