Kevin Schlomer and Mary Montgomery working with an Indianola teacher.
Some claim that through adversity, it is then one can realize growth and opportunities. This claim rings true for the Indianola Community School District.
The district’s elementary math data was less than favorable. Student learning in math was significantly below the minimum 80 percent proficiency level and two of the district’s elementary buildings were identified as Schools in Need of Assistance (SINA) in the area of math under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
Indianola staff including Kevin Schlomer, Indianola Elementary Literacy/Mathematics Coach, created a building leadership team for SINA math to do an initial analysis of the district’s curriculum materials, alignment to the Iowa Core and implementation.
“The SINA process presented an opportunity to dig into this work and improve it to meet the needs of SINA and requirements of Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS),” Kevin said. “Indianola asked Heartland AEA assessment and mathematics experts to help reformulate our math benchmark assessments into true screeners.”
Answering that call was Diane Schnelker, Heartland AEA Assessment Consultant. Diane was the statistical mind behind the work as grade level teams created a universal screening tool. She set the direction and provided the support with correlation, reliability, validity, technical adequacy and alignment to the Iowa Core.
Sitting side-by-side with Diane and the district team was Vickie Borich, Heartland AEA Curriculum Consultant – Math. Vickie provided the math content needed to assist with the Iowa Core alignment to each grade level screening tool. She was able to support teams as they addressed each question and whether the intent and depth of the standard was represented. With Vickie’s content knowledge and expertise, she was able to provide critical insight with progression of the standards across grade levels.
The district teams working on the math process found Diane and Vickie’s support invaluable. It was critical to supporting what was yet to be accomplished.
The screening tool was only a piece to improving Indianola’s math proficiency level among students. The district adopted a new elementary math curriculum that more closely aligned with the Iowa Core standards. Mary Montgomery, Heartland AEA Professional Learning and Leadership Consultant, worked with district personnel on creating an MTSS framework that better supported student learning.
The district provided learning opportunities to build background and development with MTSS. The main focus was to build supports that would improve the math learning for all students (the universal level). Part of this work was done through model teaching where Kevin and Mary would teach a classroom of students using different strategies while teachers would observe.
“Teachers really understood a different way to teach math and were implementing the math curriculum with integrity,” Mary said. “It pulled everyone together to get on the same page.”
The payoff off all of this work has been magnificent. Students are screened three times a year with the universal screening tool that Diane and Vickie helped design. With each screening and also comparing yearly Iowa Assessment scores, it is showing that more and more students are testing proficient in math, some even testing at advanced proficiency.
More importantly the percent of ‘less than proficient’ students is decreasing, which means teachers do not have to pull as many students from the classroom to do special interventions in helping them learn concepts; the students’ needs are being met at the classroom level.
The work continues as the district strives to make all students proficient in math. Diane continues to help the district assess their data and ensure that the screening tool aligns well with the Iowa Core. Mary continues to work with the district leadership team to work on a district wide instructional framework.
Vickie was reassigned in the Agency, but John Butz, Heartland AEA Curriculum Consultant-Math, is continuing the work of meeting with teachers and providing professional development with math.
“We have had a lot of support from John,” Kevin said. “He has spent a lot of time going room to room and focusing on what ways we could move forward, increase our level of rigor and increase the level of higher thinking our kids are doing.”
The example with Indianola is a tribute to the partnership between the Agency and the district and how the MTSS framework is working to benefit Iowa’s students. Mary sums up the experience ‘in a nutshell:’
“Going from Heartland providing SINA training, math and assessment consultants providing support for designing a universal screening tool and then instructional coaching on ‘here’s how we teach it,’ ‘here’s how we’re going to implement these assessments’ – that in a year’s time – it’s incredible the amount of progress the students have made!”