Lewis: Lawrence school district heading in ‘right direction,’ but must do more to reach strategic plan goals
photo by: Dylan Lysen
The Lawrence school district is heading in the “right direction,” but more must be done to achieve its goals set out in its strategic plan, said Superintendent Anthony Lewis.
Lewis made the comment while he was discussing the school district’s performance on Kansas State Assessment tests for third grade reading and eighth grade math. He showed the results to the Lawrence school board as part of his update on the school district’s progress on its strategic plan, which the board approved in 2019.
The overall purpose of the plan is to help increase district students’ literacy by third grade, increase students’ math proficiency by eighth grade, narrow achievement gaps among student groups, increase high school completion and improve students’ post-graduation success in college or a career. Lewis went through each of these goals, giving a short update and describing what the school district is doing to reach them.
In 2019, about 48% of Lawrence third graders scored a level three or level four on the state’s reading standards, which is about 1% more than 2018, Lewis said. A level three score means the student shows an “effective” understanding of the subject matter and level four score means the student shows an “excellent” understanding, according to a guide from the state program.
But the results show more than half of the third grade students scored either level one or level two, a limited or basic understanding, respectively.
“We are moving in the right direction … but about 52% are still not where we want them to be,” Lewis said of the reading test results.
The school district also saw an increase in math results, with about 30% of Lawrence eighth grade students reaching level three or level four in 2019. That’s about 3% more than 2018. But 70% are only scoring level one or level two, Lewis said.
However, Lawrence’s math and reading results for level three and four were both higher than the state’s overall average.
The data Lewis shared came from state assessments administered prior to the school district installing its strategic plan. The first assessments under the plan will take place later this spring, he said.
When asked by board member Erica Hill what the “benchmark” results the school district is aiming to reach with the strategic plan, Lewis said it does not outline one. However, he said he expects the school district to increase its scores significantly, as the state has a goal for 75% of students scoring level three or four by the year 2030.
“Traditionally, we’ve outperformed the state in all areas,” Lewis said. “So if the state is going to be at 75%, we may be at 80% or 85%.”
Lewis said the school district is focusing on several initiatives to improve the test results in both categories, such as supportive feedback for teachers to help them improve instruction skills, among others.
In other business, the board approved two new courses at the Lawrence Virtual School for the 2020-2021 school year:
• Reading for College Success, which aims to provide students with tools to become successful in both academics and in the workplace. It will explore how reading is a vital skill needed to effectively take notes, summarize ideas and separate fact from opinion.
• Sports and Entertainment Marketing, which explores basic marketing principles and delves deep into the multibillion-dollar sports and entertainment marketing industry.
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