ACTing to Improve

   A ranking of fifth in the state would suggest that most Seaholm students test well. However, the administration and the teachers are working towards overall improvement in standardized testing scores.

   During a two day professional development session, teachers discussed goals to aim for in the upcoming year of ACT testing.

   “They’ve involved the leadership teams within their buildings in understanding the goals and defining the direction that is goingto be taken to improve learning,” Superintendent Daniel Nerad said.

   This year, the one of Seaholm’s GAN (Greatest Area of Need) was improving ACT goals. The new SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results based, Time orientated) goal is to impact students’ reading over a three year plan that is being developed by teams of teachers.

    “Periodically every school has to be accredited and so you go through an accreditation process and part of that is identifying any area that has GAN,” Assistant Principal Deb Boyer said.”And so what we’re looking at is improving reading. You do different kinds of reading in different subject areas but reading should help across the spectrum toward our school improvement goal.”

   According to Principal Dee Barash, a common problem for Seaholm students is that they take too long reading and have to rush to finish, sacrificing accuracy.

   “Sometimes what trips you up in science or math and the English part too is actually the reading,” Barash said.”Especially if you’re a slow reader. You run out of time.”

   These new SMART goals are not just focused towards improvement for the ACT, they also help to prepare for the MME, PLAN, and Explore tests.

   “When we look at our GAN, we examine data. And really what we did was look at data (plan scores, explore scores, ACT scores) to see where we needed to improve,” Boyer said.”Now relatively speaking, we do well in all of those areas, but there’s always room for improvement.”

   Barash said that another part of the new goals is getting every student to around a 21 or 22, which is the reading cutoff score for most colleges.

   “The purpose is college reading ready. We want to get everybody to that 21-22,” Barash said. “That’s probably the lowest you’re going to score in reading that’s really going to get you into a good school.”

   The class of 2013’s average ACT score was a 25.1 and the exact number for 2014 isn’t in, however Barash said that it was a little bit lower.

   “We always worry about students not taking the MME seriously, but I don’t think that happens because we really have been looking at the MME scores and the kids who should do well typically do well,” Barash said.

   Nerad thinks that all standardized testing opportunities are an important part of the Birmingham school district.

   “It is an important opportunity for young people to participate in. What we need to ensure is every student has that opportunity to take the ACT,” Nerad said.”So this district has kind of committed to the assessments that prepare for the ACT (PLAN, Explore). That’s a good thing.”

    Teachers will look at the best research based practice to improve scores and implement these techniques in the classroom that will get all students to the 21-22 area, according to Barash.

   “Focus on learning improvement for everybody, while we eliminate these achievement gaps,” Nerad said.

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