WARE — In a Jan. 31 presentation to the School Committee, Superintendent Michael Lovato highlighted the data comparison of Ware Public Schools’ fall and winter test performances in the adaptive i-Ready diagnostic test. The comparison showed student scores were improving, but the majority were still below their grade level.

The i-Ready diagnostic is a personalized test used to assess students’ math and reading skills in kindergarten through grade 9. The test is reactive to student responses, asking easier questions when students struggle and more challenging questions when students answer correctly, Lovato said. After test scores are calculated, students are sorted into five categories. These are “Mid or Above Grade Level,” “Early On Grade Level,” “1 Grade Level Below,” 2 Grade Levels Below” or “3+ Grade Levels Below.” Tests are taken in the fall and winter of each school year in order to track individual growth.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Lovato said. “When you look at the data, there’s growth. What’s happening, though, is there are significant achievement gaps that are taking place in our district … we are making those growth levels but it’s just not fast enough. We need to work faster. We need to work harder and we need to work smarter without question.”

In Ware’s recent math winter testing, 12% of students across the district scored at or above their grade level and 21% scored “Early On Grade Level,” or partially met their grade’s expectations. This result saw growth from students’ fall testing when score percentages were 3% and 13% respectively.

In the reading test, growth was similarly positive. During the fall test, 10% met expectations and 17% partially met their grade level while 21% scored “Mid or Above Grade Level” and another 21% scored “Early On Grade Level” in the winter.

Yet, despite this positive trend, Lovato noted that individual growth could still mean that students are behind in their grade’s expectations, particularly if they entered the grade at a lower level. This means that Ware teachers would have to advance students more than one level each year in order for the student to meet their respective grade’s expectations by graduation.

Student’s ability to meet this goal is clearly shown in the data. Across both math and reading, varying percentages of students in each grade “are on pace right now to get above a grade level [worth of] growth,” Lovato stated. This percent is lowest at 18% for grade 7 math and highest at 64% for kindergarten reading.

Addressing student learning gaps

To further reduce gaps in student learning, Lovato explained that the district is working with Clark Consulting and Training to help teachers better engage students and, in turn, improve students’ ability to express their knowledge. This connection between student expression and knowledge was first noted by the district in fall 2023. The current work with Clark Consulting and Training is the second part of the district’s five phase plan to minimize this issue.

“The reality is that kids today are coming to school with less linguistic sophistication than at any other time in history,” Clark Consulting and Training CEO Bradley Williams said. “What we end up finding is that our students have quite a bit of knowledge but their ability to academically express what they learned is the gap.”

This issue is connected to how the district is addressing the discrepancies in students’ learning that is shown in data like the i-Ready test, Williams stated.

Ware Public Schools is “putting intense focus on the students who are two and three grade levels behind and you’re seeing growth in those students, going from three years behind to two to one, but once they get to a year behind or they get to grade level, the focus shifts and the growth stops,” he explained.

Williams and Clark Consulting and Training COO Kayla Pavey are working to address this issue by assisting the Ware Public Schools administration in “see[ing] their job differently,” specifically in their role to be “instructional leader[s]” rather than to manage teachers, he said. Likewise, they are conducting hands-on training with teachers in classrooms to modify questions so they encourage students to better express their knowledge.

The organization is also creating a guide for the district to support these changes beyond the initial work with Clark Consulting and Training, Williams stated.

Superintendent evaluation

The School Committee also discussed utilizing a different method for the superintendent evaluation this year. Multiple members agreed that the previous method was a lengthy process with Vice Chair Michael Foran calling it “fairly complex and somewhat meaningless at times.”

In previous years, the committee used the state’s five-step evaluation process, which involves self-assessment by the superintendent and an opportunity to provide evidence of the superintendent’s goals and actions, member Aaron Sawabi stated. This evaluation method is projected to take a year to complete, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

After discussion, the committee agreed that Lovato would send members multiple state-approved evaluation methods for review and the committee would vote on a new method during the next meeting. The evaluation is due in April, Chair Brian Winslow said.

Winslow was voted chair of the committee at the Jan. 17 meeting after Christopher Desjardins stepped down. Desjardins will remain a member, he said. Michael Foran was also voted as vice chair at this meeting.

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