Oct 4, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterThough her school has struggled to meet Adequate Yearly Progress requirements, Riverton Middle School principal Cheryl Mowry said student learning at RMS has improved in recent years because of the work of teachers and staff.
"The bottom line is, we've advanced," Mowry said. "We've made changes to make (students) successful."
AYP is the accountability mechanism for the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, through which school officials try to bring all students to proficiency in language arts and math by 2014 by working toward yearly goals.
Mowry said the concept behind NCLB is a good one, but it is not necessarily realistic.
"I would love for all of our kids to meet those standards," Mowry said. "I just think there are kids that have things that are interfering with their learning that we have to be real about. They're not all going to get there at the same time."
According to the Wyoming Department of Education, which released 2012 AYP results last month, this will be RMS's fourth year seeking school improvement in language arts, and teachers at RMS have been working to heighten students' mathematics skills for two years.
Mowry said there have been some accounting errors that have led to the poor record for RMS. For example, she said the school wasn't rated by AYP two years ago because of technical issues.
"In 2010 we would have made it, and they didn't count it because they had computer problems," Mowry said. "We would have been off AYP and started over. But that's OK; we know our kids aren't all where they need to be."
Mowry said the annual AYP results, which are calculated using the annual Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students, have pushed her staff to do extra research to learn about best practices for students. For example, the school has implemented Response to Intervention, a teaching method that focuses on students who are struggling in school. Mowry said RMS teachers have used RTI to help improve those students' reading skills this year.
"We have a good measure to find out what's exactly keeping them from being successful in reading," Mowry said. "Some need help clear back to beginning reading and sounding out words."
Students who have not demonstrated proficiency in reading take an additional class every day to hone that skill set, Mowry said, adding that the students seem to embrace the extra work.
"They'll probably take the class for a semester, and it will help them with comprehension," she said. "The kids aren't fighting it. They're realizing it's helping them."
Mowry and other administrators sit down with students each year to examine test scores, using graphs that demonstrate proficiency and progress. Students also take a monthly exam that shows their incremental growth throughout the year.
Mowry said the regular test, coupled with a conversation about scores, keeps students motivated.
"Then they make a learning plan (and) set some goals," Mowry said.
Over the past six years, eighth-grade reading scores have gone up 30 points, Mowry said, and sixth-graders have shown 20 percent improvement on the math portion of the annual PAWS test.
"Now 80 percent of kids are proficient in sixth-grade math," Mowry said. "So we're making the gains. ... We still have a long ways to go, but we'll keep pushing."
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