Community feedback heard on Research to Practice Inclusive Communities grant
Prior to the Cadott School Board Annual Meeting, Oct. 19, the board held a listening session with the public, to discuss what the Research to Practice Inclusive Communities (RPIC) Grant entails and hear community feedback.
Jenny Starck, district administrator, gave a brief overview of the grant for those present. She says Cadott is one of 10 schools in the state, who received the grant.
Starck explained the district was labeled as “needs assistance,” based on test results for students with disabilities in math and language arts.
Starck presented graphs, breaking down test scores for students with disabilities or in poverty, compared to their peers who do not have disabilities and are not in poverty.
“We have gap,” said Starck. “That’s one of the reasons that we were a district that needed assistance.”
She says other districts do perform better on the tests and that is part of the reason the district recognizes the scores for students with disabilities, or in poverty, needs to be an area of growth.
Starck says this is the second year of the five-year grant, with the district providing a mid-year and annual update on their progress, to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).
She also provided data from a study, that showed collective teacher efficacy as one of the top ways to promote student growth and learning. Starck says professional learning communities (PLCs) are just that – teachers working together in a different way than they did in the past.
Starck says the administration learns about leading PLCs, as part of the grant.
“When we do that training, it starts with the statewide training for the district leadership team,” said Starck. “And then it kind of narrows, similar to a funnel.”
She says the building leadership teams have training, followed by a focus training for staff, before reaching classroom level instruction.
“Not all districts have the same focus areas that we do,” said Starck. “Not everybody is working on students with disabilities and students of poverty.”
She says the other districts may implement the training differently to fit their focus.
Teachers in PLCs share information and goals around four questions. What do we want students to learn? How will they know if the students learned it? What will they do if the students didn’t master the subject? What will the teachers do if the students already know the information.
Leading to Learning training is also part of the grant, which is more of a classroom instruction, and helps with improving the professional learning community and other instructional strategies.
The equity training is a framework meant to help districts shift to a proactive education system for all students, instead of most students, meant to help every student meet his or her full potential.
Leading by Convening focuses on a partnership between top-down and bottom-up leadership. Starck gave the example of as- sessments, where they should be similar across teachers in the elementary school, but teachers also have a say in how those assessments look.
Starck also touched on the concerns she has heard from community members surrounding the equity training.
“It’s true, it does cover inclusion for all students,” said Starck. “...It talks about respect for all protected classes, as well as students in poverty.”
She says an equity audit is used to review those areas, such as the protected classes, gender (for example, a comparison of boys and girls test scores for a particular test) and poverty. Starck says, from there, the district decides where their focus should be to have the greatest impact. She says the district will still comply with all policies on nondiscrimination for students and staff.
Starck also shared that there is a link with additional information on the grant available on the Cadott School District website.
One community member asked how they can learn what is already being implemented from the training, since this is the second year of the grant.
“I will say, the first year, focused more on the district-level training and not as much to teachers in classrooms, so it was more building background knowledge,” said Starck.
Dawn Matott, community member, asked about the discrepancies between what the district says is part of the equity training, and what the district responses on the equity audit say, in regard to the subjects of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/ questioning (LGBTQ) and race. Matott says truth and transparency are required in order to maintain a good working relationship between the district, and the community.
Since they were short on time, school board president Rod Tegels asked for a show of hands for who is in favor of moving ahead with the grant, and who is not. The majority indicated they were not in favor of going ahead with the grant.
Cutline: Cadott district administrator Jenny Starck gave a presentation on how, and why, the district received the Research to Practice Inclusive Communities grant, at a listening session Oct. 19. Included in the presentation, was a slide showing the percentages of students in the universal curriculum (bottom tier), targeted intervention (middle) and special education (top). The center percentages show the goal for the district, with 80 percent of students succeeding in the regular curriculum with no extra help. Numbers to the left and right show the current percentages. Photo by Julia Wolf