Case Study #2
Equal doesn't mean the same…
This midsize rural district has approximately 6,000 students in 12 schools. There are nine elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. The district demographics suggest that 59% of the students are White, 21% are Hispanic and 13% are African American. Changes were initiated in 2009 at the elementary level, using the Miller Guidance System.
Local district norm based cut scores are applied to universal screening results when the scores are used to identify students that need supplemental support, in addition to a highly effective core program. Using local district cut scores considers "need" from district perspective. When risk is determined by school norm-based cut scores, "at risk" is defined differently in each school.
In this district, where the nine schools showed wide variation in the number of at risk students, support personnel were distributed equally. Within this model, some schools were able to provide support to students that showed slight risk while others were able to serve only the students with the most intensive need. Districts can improve student performance outcomes by carefully placing support services where the need is greatest.
After working with a Miller Guidance consultant, school leadership realized the importance of developing a system for distributing support services that reflected the distribution of students in need. Using a general outcome measure of basic reading skills, each school's "at risk" population was described as a percentage of the total number of at risk students at each grade level across the district (Lincoln served 31% of the total at risk students). Next, it was determined what percentage each grade level at each school represented within the total district population (Lincoln enrolled 9% of the district's total population). The first graph (2.1), created for district leadership by Miller Guidance, represents numbers of students rather than percentages since this is a more meaningful descriptor when considering resource allocation.
To ensure that this policy was not reinforcing ineffective practices at schools with high numbers of at risk students, the district literacy coordinator participated in grade level teams at the schools receiving additional support. The focus was to guide and support the use of additional personnel and assist in the development of plans for core program differentiation to support developing readers.
The second graph (2.2) represents the mean scores for each district grade level for the spring of each year that the Miller Guidance System has been used. Placing district resources in the schools where the greatest student need exists benefits the whole district.