The second annual summit was facilitated by the WCSD board of trustees and featured 10 rotating discussion groups which focused on analyzing data in order to improve strategies to increase student success and raise high school graduation rates.
Topics for discussion groups were derived from data packets given to all attendees in advance of the summit.
“I think a major goal of this summit is to serve as an informational download,” Kristen McNeill, director of the office of state and federal programs, said. “It helps us to see where we are as a district and to identify our areas of strength and areas where we need improvement.”
“We are using this data for continuous improvement along the pathway to excellence,” Ben Hayes, director of research and evaluation, said.
Hayes is largely responsible for the compilation of district data for the annual summit, and this year put together an 80-page packet filled with charts and summaries on elementary, middle and high school indicators; data regarding English language learners; links and connections on the pathway to graduation; pathway connections to college momentum; teacher and school effectiveness; transition point indices; and an evaluation of continuous improvement along the academic pathway.
WCSD is the 58th largest school district in the United States with 102 schools in urban, suburban and rural areas, and the district this year implemented a strategic plan to improve the quality of education in county schools. The plan is composed of five goals:
• Provide all students with extensive opportunities, challenges and support in achieving continuous academic success.
• Recruit, select, develop and retain highly effective personnel to provide the best educational opportunities and services to students.
• Engage family and community members in strong relationships and meaningful opportunities to increase expertise, trust and shared responsibility for student success.
• Value and strengthen a positive, productive, self-renewing culture throughout the district with attention to safe, orderly and respectful learning and work environments focused on student achievement.
• Align and maintain efficient and effective performance management systems to sustain a cycle of continuous improvement in support of student learning.
McNeill said WCSD has a large number of initiatives designed to improve the educational experience of students within the strategic plan. The underlying goal of the plan is to make sure all district students proceed to high school graduation and leave prepared to enter college or the workforce.
“How do we know at a district level which things are being accomplished?” McNeill asked rhetorically. “We are using the data to decide where additional resources may be needed. Everyone is being held accountable to make sure initiatives are being carried out.”
At this time, all departments within the district have been charged with compiling detailed implementation plans in order to carry out initiatives for improvement and success, Hayes said.
“They should be done with those fairly soon,” he said.
According to the data packet, as measured by Nevada state criterion referenced tests, WCSD has made progress toward improving academic performance of students from 2009 to 2010.
As stated in the packet introduction, “The District moved from ‘watch’ status to ‘adequate’ for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Eighteen schools are on the ‘watch’ list, 27 are designated as ‘in need of improvement’ and four are designated ‘made AYP – on hold in improvement.’
“The percent proficient on the CRT in reading increased in all grades 3-8. This ranged from a low of a two percentage point increase in grade 7 to a five percentage point increase in grade 3. The district outperformed the state as a whole in every grade.”