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Woodward, Washington Update
Schools Remain Open with State Partnership
Washington Writers’ Academy and The Woodward School for Technology & Research will remain open after the signing of an agreement between Kalamazoo Public Schools and the Michigan Department of Education and other agencies.
The partnership was approved by the Kalamazoo Public Schools Board of Education on April 27, and maintains school district control over the two schools, which had been marked for possible closure by the School Reform Office because of low performance on state assessment tests over the past three years. The potential closures set off protests from the community and resulted in KPS filing a lawsuit that argued the SRO did not have legal authority to close schools.
The agreement outlines goals and benchmarks designed to improve achievement at the schools and provides a framework to address issues, should the schools fail to meet the goals in the document.
“Nothing in this agreement speaks to school closures, nothing in this agreement speaks to additional SRO intervention, nothing in this agreement would have a consequence of a CEO over Washington or Woodward,” said KPS Superintendent Michael Rice at the April 27 board meeting. “This is a local control agreement and that theme courses through the document.
“The School Reform Office, for all intents and purposes, has no role in this agreement whatsoever.”
Board trustee Carol McGlinn said that as the board discussed the partnership, “We gave Dr. Rice specific things we needed to see. Local control was at the top of the list. This partnership seems to be a true partnership.”
The agreement was effective May 1 and established a partnership among the KPS Board of Education, the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency, and MDE.
The agreement, which lasts through June 30, 2020, lays out 18-month and 36-month processes and outcomes.
The 18-month process goals are:
• Implement a new K-5 math program.
• Implement a new K-5 writing program.
• Partially implement instruction aligned with the state’s grade-level content standards and monitor through walk-through observations and results from the survey of enacted curriculum.
• Strengthen implementation of evidence-based interventions and monitor impact using NWEA/MAP (a nationally normed test) and local assessments.
• Implement school climate and culture initiatives
• Increase student supports in mental health, trauma training, and attendance (assuming grant funding is available).
• Develop a plan for increased summer supports to students through libraries, summer learning initiatives, and attendance in summer school.
“It’s important to note that those seven process initiatives expand and deepen work that we have been doing in the district over the past few years in certain regards,” Rice said. For example, the school board recently approved new K-5 writing and math programs, the result of work of teachers and administrators over the last year.
“These are things we have been working on. We’re not being compelled to do something here,” said KPS board trustee Ken Greshak. “We want the public to be clear: we’re doing this because we know this is the right thing to do.”
The 18-month outcome/ product benchmarks are:
• Reduce the achievement gap between the state’s percentage of students proficient in reading compared to proficient students at each of the identified schools by at least 3 percentage points from spring 2016 to spring 2018.
• Reduce the achievement gap between the state’s percentage of students proficient in mathematics compared to the percentage of proficient students at each of the identified schools by at least 3 percentage points from spring 2016 to spring 2018.
• Increase the percentage of students at each identified school scoring at or above grade level on the NWEA/MAP reading and math assessments by at least 3 percentage points from fall 2017 to spring 2018.
• Increase the percentage of students at each identified school making one or more years of growth on the NWEA/MAP reading and math assessments by at least 3 percentage points from fall 2017 to spring 2018.
• Reduce the percentages of students at each identified school scoring far below grade level by making significant catch-up growth on the NWEA/MAP reading and math assessments by at least 3 percentage points from fall 2017 to spring 2018.
The 36-month goals and outcomes are almost identical to the 18-month process goals except that they require full implementation of the Tier 1 instruction and evidence-based interventions, while the outcomes look for 6 percent increases on the benchmark measurements.
The agreement recognizes some of the strengths and challenges of the district. Among the strengths it cites are improvements to major academic indicators over recent years; implementation of NWEA/MAP assessments; creation of districtwide curriculum guides; and the development of community partnerships. Challenges facing the district include improving instruction in all content areas at Washington and Woodward, and consistently high levels of poverty at Washington and Woodward.
Rice noted that all 38 schools that were threatened with closure by the SRO are high-poverty schools.
“We believe that work we’re doing with this partnership agreement will benefit not simply Washington and Woodward but all schools in Kalamazoo, particularly those with high concentrations of poverty.”
KPS will meet quarterly with other partners to review the agreement and to discuss the progress being made on the goals. If the district fails to meet the 18-month benchmarks, the agreement says the district will review and address factors that may be adversely affecting the partnerships agreement. KRESA will work with KPS to adjust goals and strategies and to provide increased support if mutually agreed.
Remedies could include personnel re-assignments and leadership adjustments. If the district fails to meet the goals at 36 months, the schools might need to be “reconstituted in some way.” Rice said that reconstituted does not mean closed, but could include measures such as new magnet themes or staffing changes.