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home : education : education July 22, 2014


5/28/2014 1:29:00 PM
Rice Lake administrator urges curriculum improvements
Ruth Erickson
Chronotype staff

"Status quo should not be acceptable," said curriculum director Barb Sparish in an assessment report to the Rice Lake Board of Education on Tuesday evening, May 27. "There is a need in the district to focus on continued improvement."
Sparish made the comment while discussing results of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam and how to improve them.
The WKCE measures levels of comprehension through the terms minimal, basic, proficient and advanced.
She said the district has work to do to meet the U.S. Department of Education's annual measurable objectives requiring 50% of students to be advanced or proficient in reading and 65% to be advanced or proficient in math by 2016-17.
"Our students are learning but not to the extent to meet the goals, with very few exceptions," Sparish said. "We are in the basic level. The question is why."
Sparish said she has studied that and does not see it is an isolated problem, like ethnicity or socioeconomic status. No one subgroup is bringing scores down, the curriculum director said.
Nor does she believe it is a problem of quality teachers.
That leads Sparish to believe it is a core instruction issue.
"What needs to be done is focus on core instruction," she said. "What are we doing in classrooms to be successful? Or what changes need to be made?"
Sparish sees the purpose of homework as a way to reinforce student learning that has taken place.
The curriculum director said no one intervention to help students catch up, like Reading Recovery, is going to work for all students.
"We need interventions going on specific to each deficit," Sparish said. "One size does not fit all. Teachers need a variety of interventions to pull from to meet the needs of students."
She said differentiated instruction is the key to improvement. "We can no longer teach to the middle of the class and hope for the best."
Sparish wants to see curriculum that is consistent, especially across the four elementary schools, and rigorous.
"We can't continue in the same way and hope to get different results," Sparish said.
The curriculum director foresees that 21st century learning skills that are aligned to the Common Core state standards will raise the rigor.
Sparish said her plan for the district's future is to focus on three to five things to work on-aligning the curriculum to the state standards, implementing quality teaching strategies, setting consistent standards for administrator observations of teacher effectiveness and finding time throughout the school year for teachers to collaborate.
Superintendent Larry Brown emphasized that this is not a teacher issue.
Sparish agreed, but said, "Teachers need adequate tools to be successful."
Brown added, "You have to focus on the rate of growth. Barb showed you tonight we are experiencing growth, just not fast enough. This is an upper level administrative issue. If we don't solve it, it will flat line or have trends going down."

Other business
Other business taken up by the School Board included the following:
• Approved the resignations of Marcia Borgen, special education teacher; Thomas Tourtillott, social studies teacher and football coach; and Jane Fetting, middle school volleyball coach.
• Gave out Student Recognition awards to Terry Hurt of the high school, Bryce Aherns of the middle school, Logan Richter of Haugen Elementary, Larissa Ekstrom of Jefferson Elementary, Blanca Amundson of Tainter Elementary and Chloe Fenske of Hilltop Elementary.
• OK'd a recommendation from the Negotiations Committee for a 2.07% increase for the professional staff for 2013-14 salaries and a 1.46% consumer price index increase for 2014-2015 salaries.
• Received good news from Buildings and Grounds Committee chair Don Cuskey, who said high school bids came in under projections, which will offset Tainter bids that came in over projections.

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