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Board takes instruction to task

With the announcement that grade levels four, seven and eight fell below 80 percent on state English Language Arts testing, the board of education questioned teachers' ability to instruct.

"To make effective change you've got to get into the trenches," said Bernard Gleeson, board president. Gleeson said to understand it he suggested they assimilate "corporate America's" way of doing things as the data is examined.

"Do we look at pockets and then the instructors over a period of time and have conversations that might be uncomfortable?" Gleeson asked. "If every instructor was stellar our scores would not be where they are."

At the May 12 meeting, Bragan said the district needs to work on instructor strengths and more staff development.

"We will have uncomfortable conversations," Bragan said. "Teachers look at those test scores and they are not happy and they know conversations are coming."

Gleeson suggested the district takes a look at "doing something different," and go so far as to take risks. He also asked Bragan if the board could be informed more often "so we are not hit with this twice a year."

On the bright side, the district is making headway. Ninety percent of the students test scores improved from when they began initiatives six years ago, Bragan said.

"Some levels saw 22 to 30 percent increases from where we started," Bragan said. "The initiatives we put in do work. But we are not where we need to be. We are behind other districts of similar size. We have a lot of work to do. We've tried hard to teach to standards and not teach to a test."

Bragan said although initiatives such as Guided Reading were implemented, grades four, seven and eight are not getting there.

"We've got to get better," Bragan said.

"What's the plan for moving forward?" asked Carla DeShaw, board trustee. "What are we doing as an administration?"

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