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Durant schools soar with API scores

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Durant schools soar with API scores

by Jamie Carrick Staff writer 11.21.09 - 09:38 pm Durant schools are moving on up where state testing scores are concerned, according to recent data. Durant Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth reported the school district's success in a recent letter to the editor to the Democrat. Of the 22 districts and 32 high schools in the 5A Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, the Durant Independent School District ranked third in the 5A classification with an Academic Performance Index (API) of 1361 for 20082009. The district increased 62 points from last year's 1299 API, Simeroth said. In addition, Durant High School had the seventh highest API score within the 32 5A high schools and had the ninth highest increase in their class. The school's API jumped from 1242 in 2007-2008 to 1349 in 2008-2009. In his letter, Simeroth reported that 64 high schools sites made up the 5A division. However, according to the OSSAA Web site, ossaa.com, only 32 schools are in the category. Simeroth apologized for the mistake. Other achievements in the school district include Durant Middle School increasing their API 59 points to 1356, Durant Intermediate School increased 50 points to 1382, Robert E. Lee Elementary scored 1383, Washington Irving Elementary scored increased 63 points to 1464 and Northwest Heights Elementary scored a perfect 1500. "It goes to show that hard work and innovation approaches [to teaching] are paying off. Our teachers are still dedicated to providing the best education possible for our kids," Simeroth said. Simeroth said the state API results arrived in mid-September but weren't officially announced until the state board meeting in October. The teachers were thrilled with the state testing results and served as validation of their efforts. When Simeroth told the faculty at Northwest Heights that they achieved a perfect score, "you would have thought the roof was going to come off," he said. Teachers often don't see results the next day; it takes time and teachers often receive delayed gratification, he said. API results, however, are something tangible that teachers can see annually. Ron Craig, DHS principal, said API results measure the level of preparedness and excellence in each school, to make sure schools meet state mandates. Items considered in the API results are achievement tests, attendance, drop-out and graduation rates, ACT scores, accelerated placement credits and college remediation rates in reading and math.

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11/23/2009

Durant schools soar with API scores

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Craig said his staff and the amount of training are reasons for the school's increased API results. "The staff is more adept at using data to target problem areas," he said. DHS Counselor Cheryl Conditt said the school has been pushing benchmark testing, which are done four times a year to make sure students are "up to speed" with their curriculum. DHS also saw a one-point increase in ACT results overall, thanks to ACT preparation classes. Teachers from all schools have also undergone EDIT, or Educational Development Instructional Team, training. In total, 11 classes were offered earlier this school year, starting in mid-September, and each teacher was required to attend a set number of sessions. EDIT training focuses on core studies -- math, English, science and social studies, and helps teachers identify strengths and weaknesses in the curriculum. Craig said the training is very beneficial to the staff because it lets teachers voice their opinions and helps them build on their strengths. Teachers also attend professional development conferences in the summer, Conditt said, which keep them up-to-date on the best teaching practices. Craig said the high school currently has a good "horizontal alignment," or flow of curriculum from freshmen to seniors, and DHS is making strides in their vertical alignment, making sure middle school students who will soon be entering high school know what to expect and have a smooth transition. To continue improving state test scores, Craig said DHS staff plan to continue what they have done. "Students are more keenly aware of the importance of tests," he said, adding that each student has to pass four of the seven achievement tests to graduate. "It has a higher importance from the student perspective." School staff are also offering remediation for any students in need of extra help in a particular subject. At the start of every school year, DHS staff hold an assembly for students, encouraging them to do their best and succeed. During the assembly, Craig said the staff celebrated the students' success and praised students for their efforts. "Overall, we have good students," Conditt said. Craig thanked his staff for helping them achieve a high state ranking. "I'm truly blessed," he said, adding that DHS has good staff and students. "We recognize that we're pretty fortunate."

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11/23/2009

Durant schools soar with API scores

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Conditt said part of their success must be attributed to the community, who is extremely supportive. Tod Harrison, DIS principal, also attributed his school's success to his teachers, saying that they pay attention to benchmark tests, which help establish API scores. "A 50-point increase is really good. We're 118 off a perfect [score]," Harrison said, adding that DIS is the first place where all of the elementary school students come together. He said DIS teachers "teach to the real needs" of students and can identify students' weaknesses and help them improve upon them. "It's pretty simple, really," Harrison said. "We're going to continue evaluating data and addressing individual students' needs." DMS Principal Kenny Chaffin attributes his school's increased API scores to a continual focus on instructional lessons, trying not to waste any time. "Every minute is important," he said. He said students have had some issues with tardiness, which factors into the API, but the school has a new Speed Tardy program that is helping to curb this trend. Tardies cause students to lose out on instructional time, and their late arrival could distract other students. The program utilizes a computer, which keeps tabs on students' tardies. If students have so many tardies within a six-week period, they will face consequences, Chaffin said. The Speed Tardy program makes students more accountable, he said. Also, homework is a way for teachers to know if their students are learning certain objectives that the state wants them to know. In addition to the tardy program, special needs instruction has been changed a little this school year, he said. Instead of having teachers be a "jack of all trades," each special education teacher will concentrate on one subject, that way they can offer greater expertise to the students. DMS teachers also have a 30-minute collaboration time on Monday mornings, at the start of the day. For these days, instruction time does not begin until 8:45 a.m., Chaffin said. During this time, teachers of the same subjects can plan out lessons and discuss objectives students should achieve, he said. By collaborating, all of the classes in one subject area can be on the same page, as well as attempt to fix any weaknesses in the curriculum. Students who have done all of their homework, have good attendance and are

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Durant schools soar with API scores

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well-behaved are rewarded during this time span. They can choose to play games, shoot hoops in the gym or play outside. Those who are not in good standing have a study period, Chaffin said. "We want to attain 1500. Hopefully our API will continue to rise," Chaffin said. Washington Irving Principal Katy Pruitt said she is proud of her teachers and last year's third-grade students for all of their hard work. She said her teachers are skilled in benchmark testing and beginning intervention courses for students who need extra help. "We want to see success in all of our students," Pruitt said. WI utilizes several computer-based programs to help students develop their math and reading skills, she said. Study Island is a program for students where students work at their own pace and advance as they're ready. Another program, NEO, supplies individual students with computers that they can use to do math and reading assignments. One program for teachers, Tidbitz training, encourages instructors to use learning games to teach math and reading skills, thus bringing excitement back into classrooms. Pruitt also noted EDIT training, which has helped her teachers better interpret test scores. Currently, the school is utilizing programs where teachers can individualize every student and strengthen weak areas, Pruitt said. Teachers also collaborate weekly, sharing teaching practices and planning lessons. "It's always good to share and work with each other," Pruitt said. WI is also continuing to use the Buckle Down test prep program, which was initiated last year. "Durant has the advantage of a top-notch IT department. With [Assistant Superintendent] Larry Scott's leadership and the IT department, our teachers are exposed to some wonderful programs for learning," Pruitt said. "Technology is definitely changing the face of teaching and learning." Pruitt attributes the school's higher API results to collaboration. Robert E. Lee Principal Mike Dills and Northwest Heights Principal Cindy Newell were unavailable for comment. © durantdemocrat.com 2009

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