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Lee County school district officials discuss strategic goals

By Staff | Sep 22, 2011

Numbers were shared Tuesday morning as the school board discussed its strategic plan goals during a retreat with the superintendent.

Some of those goals included the district’s graduation rate; drop-out rate; reading, math, science and writing performance; achievement gap improvement and an increase in advanced course participation for academic services.

Superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke said the graduation rate, which is calculated from the time a student enters the ninth grade, was targeted at 83.3 percent for the 2010-2011 school year.

Burke said four years later if the student graduates and earns a diploma, they are considered to be a graduate for rating purposes. If a student does not accomplish that they are considered a drop out.

The target for the 2010-2011 drop-out rate was 1.2 percent. The actual performance for the drop-out rate during the 2009-2010 school year was 1.3 percent.

Board Member Jeanne Dozier said the numbers from graduation are skewed because if a student leaves the district without turning in the right paperwork they are still considered a student in the district and are added to the rate. She said it is crucial to have good records, so they know when students have left the district.

Burke said the greatest need and focus he saw regarding the strategic plan goals was for reading.

The target reading performance for the 2010-2011 school year was 72 percent and the actual performance was 70 percent.

To tackle reading performance, Burke said he has asked each of the high school principals to develop a plan that would focus on the students who need help in this target area. He said they also provided the principals with some additional support to help with the intervention in reading.

“Six of our high schools had a significant decline in reading last year,” Burke said. “It is obviously an area we want to pay attention to in order to get on track.”

Board Chairman Thomas Scott said they should stop the catching up by addressing what is going on at the middle school level. He said reading and writing need to be integrated into the regular coursework at the middle school level.

“Kids like to learn when they understand what it means in their own life,” he said. “You do that when you touch nerves with them.”

Scott said, unfortunately, there are a lot of things that they are doing at the schools that does not necessarily focus on the critical areas of reading and writing.

“With those skills, the world is open to them,” he said about the students.

The school district strategic goal for writing during the 2010-2011 school year was 87 percent; actual performance was 84 percent.

Burke said the state-wide writing scores did go down this past year because the scoring mechanism changed. He said instead of having two readers for every student paper, the student was only scored by one reader.

Dozier requested that Burke keep the board abreast of what is happening in the schools in regards to student achievement.

“We need to have our eyes focused on what is making our students achieve,” she said about presenting an update at every briefing meeting.

In addition, Burke also presented data of how each school is doing in the district in terms of its FCAT scores and its school grades. He said they have identified some of the schools that they think are going to be challenged this year, which is going to demand particular intensive attention to those schools.

The schools in Cape Coral that saw a one year decrease in their FCAT points were Cape Coral Charter with a loss of 26 points; Oasis Elementary School with a loss of five points; Christa McAulliffe Elementary School with a loss of one point; Hector A Cafferata Jr. Elementary School with a loss of 33 points; Mariner Middle School with a loss of 18 points; Caloosa Middle School with a loss of 37 points; Skyline Elementary School with a loss of 15 points; Caloosa Elementary School with a loss of 16 points; Island Coast High School with a loss of 14 points and Patriot Elementary School with a loss of 28 points.

Although the schools saw a decrease in points, the majority of them had an “A” grade.

Burke said some of the schools that have been a “A” school traditionally have started to decline. He said he wants to make sure they are aware and attentive to what they need to do to remain an “A” school.

The school board asked that additional information be collected regarding the decline so they can look at various trends. Some of their suggestions were to look at how long the current principal has been at the school, along with mobility rates of teachers within the school and how many times the principal has changed at a school over a five-year period.

Burke also discussed organizational changes, which is a part of the big picture and philosophy of what he would like to do for the district.

“The big picture is that critical work gets done at the school level,” he said. “That is where the rubber meets the road.”

The model he would like to implement will move away from the district’s current scenario of an elementary and secondary director and towards a scenario involving an administrator who would be in charge of a zone of schools – south, east and west.

Burke wants to implement the model by November. The board agreed that it was a good idea.

He said the basic model is to get as much support and leverage at the schools as they can.

“That administrator would have all those schools from K-12 in those zones and report directly to the superintendent, so I can have my hands on what is going on in the schools all the time,” Burke said.

In addition, Burke said he would like to decentralize some of the other services they provide to the schools in the district. He said he would like to deploy all of the social workers and school psychologists who are all located in the central office to the different zones.

“I would really like to have those folks be assigned to serve schools in particular zones as well,” Burke said.

The superintendent’s incentive plan was also discussed Tuesday, so the final language could be voted on at the board’s next meeting on Sept. 27.

Those incentives include:

* The district will increase the percentage of schools making an A or B school grade by 4 percent.

* Maintain an A district.

* Present a revised student assignment plan to the school board resulting in a 6 percent reduction in budgeted transportation costs.

* Implement a teacher evaluation system that provides for a compensation model which includes student learning outcomes, and the development of career ladder options for teachers.

* Increase the percentage of students identified as college or career ready by 4 percent. The board and Burke discussed that they would measure career readiness by the number of students who obtained a certification and college readiness would be measured by the percent of students taking algebra 2 or higher math courses in high school.