PE Reading Targeted

Published 4:35 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2013

PRINCE EDWARD – Third grade students will get a pass on some Standards of Learning tests next year.

A House bill approved by the General Assembly allows elementary schools with an adjusted pass rate of less than 75 percent on SOL reading assessments for the 2011-12 year to apply for a two-year waiver from the SOL assessment requirement in science or history and social science, or both.

Prince Edward is eligible for $39,955 in state funds for an early reading specialist with a $19,369 in a local match (which is based on the state's composite index). The specialist would work with students below reading level and with teachers to improve reading performance.

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The school division needed to approve a waiver that allows third grade students to not take the SOL assessments for two years. Students would not take the SOL in science and social studies for the next two school years.

“Students would still be responsible for addressing the standards, learning the content, but the purpose of waiving the test is to provide additional time for instruction so that students would have 30 more minutes additional instructional time in reading on a daily basis…,” Director of Instruction Laura Williamson explained.

Fourth grade students are not required to take SOL tests in science and social studies, but the tests are administered at the fifth grade level.

Dr. Smith noted that in terms of instruction, they would have to make sure accountabilities are in place to make sure instruction continues.

Custodial Services

The question of whether to out-source custodial services will remain a question until the May meeting. School officials have looked into the option dating to the previous budget year and have postponed a decision until their May meeting.

Should the school system do so, there is a potential $133,000 in savings if the school board chooses the option of allowing the selected company to hire their own workers and not look to existing staff with a set number of years of service. It offers some savings in a tough budget year, however. (The school board had initially requested an additional $1.37 million in local funding for the next budget year, but the County advertised a budget with the same amount of local dollars. The school board has since forwarded a modified request of $240,148 that would-with some state matching funds for some workers-enable a two percent pay increase for all school employees, match a grant for a mostly state funded reading specialist position, and fund an increase for health insurance. While not taking action, County supervisors indicated support for the latest request.)

During the board discussion, school board member Dr. Timothy Corbett offered that he is “pretty much opposed to the whole concept.” Board member Dr. Lawrence Varner asked about the absolute last day that they need to make a decision; it was noted that the request for proposals stated May 8, or after the next school board meeting.

The board opted to wait.

Dual Enrollment, AP Courses

Following the lead of school board member Dr. Ellery Sedgwick the school board tweaked the standards for students taking dual enrollment and AP courses for core subject areas. Dr. Sedgwick proposed adding criteria necessary for students to participate in either of the two types of courses.

He suggested criteria that included: that a student is pursuing an advanced studies diploma with a 3.0 GPA; they have a grade of at least a “B” in any prerequisite course; a 500 or pass advance on a standards of learning test; and a PSAT or SAT score equal to the average tenth grader. Individual students, as he proposed, would have to meet three of the four of the criteria.

Dr. Sedgwick offered that they seem “very minimal and reasonable assurances that the students who are placed in these courses are able to succeed.”

The proposal sparked a lengthy discussion. As proposed in the dual enrollment contract (and later approved) between SVCC and the county public schools, students must have permission of a parent or guardian and be recommended by their principal to cross register and meet core prerequisite; must meet admission and core placement requirements of the college; requirements for admission include the completion of an application for admission, transcript request forms, and satisfactory scores in the college's placement tests when required; and exceptions are allowed on a case-by-case basis with the approval of the superintendent and the appropriate community college officials.

Ultimately, the Dr. Sedgwick's proposal was approved, though rather than three, students would have to meet two of the four criteria to be eligible to take AP or dual enrollment courses.

Dr. Sedgwick also proposed that the school board receive a report on the pass rate of students in the dual enrollment program-as they do with AP-specifically looking at data of the group of students.

The information, he cited, would be available for the board in their retreat packet.

Having made the changes to the standards for students taking dual enrollment and AP courses for core subject areas, the board also took action to approve the SVCC dual enrollment/associate degree contract with SVCC.

In Other News…

*The school board members recognized middle school band students participating in the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association's annual concert band assessment. The middle school advanced band received an “excellent” rating on their stage performance and a “superior” for their sight-reading performance. The middle school's intermediate band received an “Excellent” rating on their stage performance and a “good” rating on their sight-reading performance.

The high school's advanced band received a “superior” rating on their stage performance and a “superior” rating on their sight-reading performance. Overall, the high school's advanced band received a combined “superior” rating, or the highest rating the group can achieve.

“…Both of these band programs have shown incredible improvement just in the last couple of years and we're very proud of all their accomplishments,” Dr. Smith said. “And this is a significant recognition because there is no regional or state level equivalent. This district assessment is the top level for them.”

*The school board also recognized ninth grade students who wrote booklets about health and physical education, which could be understood in students in grades K-4. Three individual students presented their works.

*The sub-committee was appointed to review teacher evaluations.

*The board will look to hold their fiscal year-end close-out meeting for June 26.

*School board members approved the local plan for career and technical education.

*The school board designated Director of Finance Cindy Wharman, Director of Human Resources Freda Reid and Executive Director of Instruction and Curriculum Laura Williamson authorization to sign in the absence of the superintendent.

*The school board was presented with a lengthy list of proposed revisions on a first reading to the Virginia School Boards Association policy manual. Revisions, it was cited, are based on changes in law and regulations. The superintendent is expected to check on some issues and the board is expected to take action at their May meeting.

*The school board was presented as an information item the local special education plan/part B-Flow-Through Application and report. The 2013-14 application is based on funding from the current year; it was noted that the Part B Section 611 flow through funding totaled $662,648 and the Section 619 or pre-school funding totaled $19,636. Overall, it's a $10,252 reduction from the previous year. Funds will be used to offset costs associated with salaries and benefits, provide training and professional development to paraprofessionals, teachers, and administrators, and materials and supplies and purchased services.

*The school calendar included planned makeup days that require the use of May 28 and 29 with teacher workdays running through June 3; as of March 29, the school had been closed seven days. Dr. Smith recommended and the school board agreed that workdays conclude May 31 for teachers successfully completing all end-of-year checkout procedures as determined by each principal. June 3 would still be required for teachers needing the additional time for completion.

*While school officials have looked to extend the contract of Cambridge Education-the firm assisting the high school in its turnaround efforts-for 20 days, the added time won't have to fund it out of grant funds. Dr. Smith reported that they have been notified that the Office of School Improvement of the Virginia Department of Education will pay the cost.