Shawano schools seek to exceed expectations

District sets lofty goal for 2021
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Shawano School District has set a goal of significantly increasing its scores on the annual state school report card.

The district wants to have a score of 73 on the report card by 2021, which would mean the district is “exceeding expectations.” Currently, the district has a score of 64.8, and all of its schools are in the “meets expectations” category.

Administrators laid out some of the steps needed to improve the district’s score to the Shawano School Board on Monday.

“We added some more rigor to our goals, and there are some things we’re doing differently,” Superintendent Gary Cumberland said. “You can’t keep doing it the same way and expect different results.”

The first step, administrators said, is to increase the level of improvement in students throughout the school year.

Hillcrest Primary School is changing the tests it uses in reading and math.

Like most other Shawano schools, Hillcrest has been using the Standardized Testing and Reporting assessment. Principal Troy Edwards said the school is changing to several different tests, including the Teacher’s College Assessment, the Snap Word Assessment, and the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment.

The school is also raising the bar on how many items students should master. Edwards noted, as an example, that the school had previously asked its 4-K students to identify 12 letters, but this year set a goal of 21 letters.

“We need to keep pushing that envelope,” Edwards said. “The farther along we get them, the farther along Brener (Intermediate School) will be able to take them. We teach them to read, so they need to be able to read when they reach Brener.”

Olga Brener Intermediate School still plans to use the STAR assessment but will also utilize other assessments, Principal Terri Schultz said. STAR is given three times per school year; other assessments can be given at random times to monitor students’ proficiency levels.

Olga Brener had three years of data to see trends in proficiency levels, Schultz said, which allowed the staff to determine new benchmarks, such as increasing the number of words students are expected to comprehend through new spelling and word-study concepts.

“If we only look at mediocrity and settle for mediocrity, then all we’ll get is mediocrity,” Schultz said. “We are looking for more than that. We’re looking for considerably more than that.”

Shawano Community Middle School has traditionally tried to foster moderate growth for all students, Principal Mary Kramer said.

While moderate growth is acceptable for students who have higher learning skills, it is not enough for students who struggle to learn.

Kramer said her school plans to adopt more rigorous goals in line with the other schools.

“If we always do what we’ve always done, then we’ll always get what we always got,” Kramer said. “Our goal is to move kids forward in an ambitious manner.”

At Shawano Community High School, the STAR assessment is the only trusted source used to monitor progress, Principal Scott Zwirschitz said. Because high schools’ state grades are based on ACT test scores, Zwirschitz is hoping STAR will help prepare students for the big exam.

One of the challenges at the high school is getting students to class, Zwirschitz said.

The school is trying to reduce tardiness each month and to increase the overall attendance rate to 94.6 percent, he said.

“We have attendance issues within our district. We don’t have enough regular attendance,” Zwirschitz said.