Although Capital's elementary schools are at the top of the accountability ratings, administrators are implementing changes to boost learning in middle schools and at Dover High, such as hiring a literacy coach.


    Capital School District Board of Education members discussed their thriving elementary schools and some struggling older students when it reviewed school accountability and DSTP ratings at its Aug.19 meeting.

    Sandra Spangler, supervisor of instruction, said as in keeping with the past few years, all of Capital’s elementary schools are in either the superior or commendable categories, the two highest rankings.

    The school accountability ratings rank schools on criteria such as yearly progress, a state progress determination and composite score that includes student performance levels in either reading and math (grades 3, 5, 8 and 10) or science and social studies (4, 6, 8, 11).

    Spangler pointed out in a later conversation that elementary schools in general rank better than middle and high schools, which held true for Capital. Central Middle School, William Henry Middle School and Dover High School all fell under academic progress or academic watch categories.

    Central Middle’s shortfalls seem to be in special education reading and math scores, low-income math scores and African American math scores.

    Special education scores are of concern at all three schools, Spangler said. At William Henry, African American reading scores are falling under par, too.

    One of the disheartening trends is the underwhelming performance of ninth- and 10th-graders. Board member Thomas Keitel questioned Spangler about it after seeing that Dover High ninth- and 10th-graders’ average DSTP reading and math scores were well below the state target.

    Spangler elaborated that this is a national issue, not one isolated to Capital students. One problem is that difficulties snowball once students advance to higher levels.

    Capital is taking a step to help Dover High students with reading fluency by hiring a literacy coach for the first time this year. The specialist will practice targeted intervention with the most struggling students, and make sure all teachers, not just English teachers, are able to help with good reading strategies.

    “As students get older, they have much more reading to do so their reading level becomes more important,” Spangler said. Good readers take for granted, for example, how to scan for information, read graphics and use other skills commonly needed in advanced textbooks.

    Reading and math scores for Dover High low-income, African American and special education students also are of concern.

    The district plans to address concerns through a number of channels including monitoring instruction and providing instructional assistance to staff, promoting family involvement and increasing participation in learning focused programs and Vision 2015.

    Accountability ratings are less useful, according to Spangler, than tracking the same students year to year. She also reminded the board that all schools, regardless of their accountability rating, could use improvement.

    “The most important thing is to really make sure all your students are learning,” Spangler said.

In other news …

The district will update its iTracker data collection program. Board president Raymond Paylor said this would make it easier to track individual students’ progress and target underperforming students.
  Students in seventh, eighth and ninth grades who scored a three or higher in math on the DSTP were invited to participate in the Computer Intensive Algebra summer school program. The five-week program ran three days per week, three hours per day, and enhanced students’ skills in algebraic reasoning with the integration of technology. The goal was to get students to take higher-level math courses and feel more comfortable with math. Seventy-six students fully participated in the program and earned a graphing calculator as a reward.

Email Sarika Jagtiani at sarika.jagtiani@doverpost.com