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Closing the gap

Behind the scenes at DePue Schools

Published: Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 1:42 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 1:44 p.m. CDT

DEPUE— “Good things are happening at DePue Schools.”

It’s the motto Principal David Higgs uses before presenting his monthly report to the school board.

And as test scores for the MAP assessment roll in and are being computed, Higgs is charting the data, comparing it to national norms and proving good things are happening at DePue.

He is happy to announce, students in all grades are closing the gap on academic achievements.

What is the MAP Test?

MAP stands for Measure of Academic Progress. The assessment measures each student — kindergarten through 11th grade — on their own academic achievements. The MAP test helps determine what a student already knows and what they’re ready to learn.

MAP uses a RIT scale (Raush Unit), which helps teachers determine each students’ achievement and growth. By individualizing each student, teachers are able to optimize learning and ensure every student is making progress.

Where does DePue stand?

“We are traditionally a low achieving school; it’s one of the reasons we qualified for the SIG grant,” Higgs said.

However, the SIG grant was able to introduce programs that have directed focus on common core and closing the achievement gap.

“It’s change that is not going to happen overnight. Change in three years is not even logical,” Higgs said. “However, we’re making great improvements. Ideally, what we want is all grade levels to be at the national level or above.”

What has helped DePue?

DePue has implemented stronger programs that have helped target students’ learning issues and found ways to overcome the issues.

The Response to Intervention (RTI) program gives students extra help needed in a subject or on a lesson they might be struggling with. Higgs said prior to the change, the district was utilizing a RTI program, however, it was not instructional, but rather taught on a computer.

“We made it instructional. It’s the idea that if you’re struggling, you need that teacher to reteach the things you don’t understand, Students can schedule RTI, get that additional time and be retaught what they need,” he explained.

Another program DePue has pushed is the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), which Higgs said has helped change the climate and culture of the building.

“Obviously if you’re a student who doesn’t have the most positive home life, there might not be food, water or the essentials needs, (so) the last thing you care about is school,” he said. “With PBIS, we take the social and emotional needs of students into consideration and help meet whatever their needs are.”

There are also incentives now given out to students taking the MAP test.

“Nobody really likes testing, and if it’s not tied to a grade, then students tend to not take it seriously,” Higgs said.

Some incentives include extra credit points or early lunch releases. They are given to students who have met or exceeded the national norm or who have raised their MAP score by 10 or more RIT points.

Higgs said not only are students improving their scores, they’re becoming competitive in doing so, which means it’s becoming important to them.

“I’m excited. I’ve never been more proud of students and teachers as I am now. We have some of the most hardworking teachers in the area,” Higgs said. “I’ve never seen this type of growth on MAP tests.”

Heading into the future …

Higgs said there’s still a lot to do.

“I believe what happens next is we continue to make big gains and continue to believe in our students and teachers,” he said. “I believe we can do anything we can set our minds to, as long as, we focus our goals and work together.”

Higgs said the district will continue improving their RTI program to make it as effective as possible. Also, the district will progress-monitor students and continuously hold meetings with teachers to make sure everyone is aligning their goals and working together for the students.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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