Hudson School District students get SMARTThe term SMART goals has been around the Hudson School District for the past few years and has been the driving force behind a lot of the work undertaken by teachers and administrators at all levels. At last week’s school board meeting, it appeared that work has paid off and paid off big.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
The term SMART goals has been around the Hudson School District for the past few years and has been the driving force behind a lot of the work undertaken by teachers and administrators at all levels. At last week’s school board meeting, it appeared that work has paid off and paid off big.
SMART goals is an acronym for goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. SMART goals have been set at district elementary schools as well as at the middle and high school. Led by Associate Director of Learning Services Peg Shoemaker, administrators and teachers throughout the district have been working to improve their instruction and their assessment methods, all leading to higher student learning.
Shoemaker said that with the benefit of common planning time and other initiatives, teachers have been working cooperatively to identify “specific actions that cause learning to improve.” She said teachers, together and in their individual classrooms, have become “action researchers” to determine what does and doesn’t work with their students, what strategies to adopt and how to replicate improved student learning. To that end, schools set their goals for the 2009-10 school year and reported their results at last week’s meeting. (See chart with this story.)
The school board heard first from Hudson High School Principal Laura Love and associate principal Scott Huffman. They set three goals for the year and exceeded their target for each of them. They had set a goal of reducing D’s and F’s by 5 percent. The results were far better with almost a 19 percent reduction in the failing grades.
Among the strategies used to reach the goal, the school established “guided study halls” for small groups of students most at-risk for the lowest grades. Teachers and tutors worked closely and staged academic interventions aimed at getting to students early and often about their performance. And students were able to earn privileges like free admission to athletic events based on attendance and grades.
On the other end of things, HHS wanted to increase the number of students in advanced placement classes, classes that can earn them college credit if they pass an exam at the end of the class. The goal was a 5 percent increase. Last year the number of students taking AP course went up by almost 25 percent. Since the exam is not mandatory, students can opt out of it but the school wanted to see 90 percent of the students in those AP classes take the exam. In the end, 93 percent of students took the final test.
Huffman said a lot of the credit goes to the AP teachers “who really sold it and the value of it to the kids.” He also noted that teachers added required tutoring sessions in preparation for the AP exams and that the addition of an AP government class also attracted more students into the program.
The only rain on the high school’s parade came with the third goal – to reduce the number of ninth-grade students considered at risk by 50 percent. There was only a 29 percent reduction in at-risk ninth-graders at the end of the year but both Huffman and Love believe the goal is attainable and said they will be continuing the efforts made this year as well as researching other interventions that could make a difference.
HHS teacher Patty Mueller told the board about two students she worked with in a guided study hall and the impact it had on their performance. She said both boys had “poor attitudes about school and didn’t want to be there.” Mueller said she acted as a facilitator with the two, providing consistent intervention and monitoring and working with their teachers.
She reported that “boy A” went from an F in history to a D, F to a C+ in English and C- to a C+ in science. “Boy B” went from an F to a C- in math, F to a D in English and D to a C+ in history. And since Boy A was good in math, he helped Boy B raise his grade. “It was a lot of work on everybody’s part but their grades went up significantly and they both saw it pay off.”
Love said holding students accountable for learning is key. “To kids if we don’t hold them responsible, it means we don’t care about them. That isn’t going to happen.”
Principal Dan Koch said his faculty made the mastery of the core subjects of the middle school curriculum by all students a top priority with 85 percent of students achieving that goal in science, language arts, social studies, math, reading and communications. The tests students took, assessments teachers worked together to develop, had them scoring above the school goal in all subject areas.
Koch said the success of the students was the result of his teachers working collaboratively on protocols and assessments at each grade level as well as regular conversations during common planning time about student learning — what works and what doesn’t — from a class wide perspective down to individual student performance.
A “data team” of teachers received special training and helped get the rest of the faculty on board with the new approach. “The team helped transfer from an isolated approach to a collaborative effort,” said Koch. He noted that there are still around 15 percent of students who have not mastered the subjects they study. “Our efforts will continue to be to get as close as we can to 100 percent. That is our focus.”
Principals from all six elementary schools were on hand to report their success. Their goal was to have 83 percent of district’s 2,548 elementary students reading at grade level. By the end of school this year, 86 percent of students were grade-level readers.
They too pointed to cooperatively planning time, 45 minutes a day, as a key strategy in their efforts. Teachers examine student work and assessment results and talk about next steps. Teachers discuss specific students and get and give advice to colleagues. They also use small group reading which give extra focus for students not reading at grade level.
In addition to the SMART goals report, Director of Learning Services Sandy Kovatch reported that Hudson students in grades 3-10 are performing at the proficient or advanced level on the Wisconsin Knowledge Concepts Examination, the assessment required by No Child Left Behind, and have achieved “adequate yearly progress.”
At the end of the report, Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten said the results were evidence of the “development of a strong system for learning.” She said teachers and administrators not only looked at test data and numbers but also at individual student learning and to one another to reach their goals.
“My congratulations and thanks to everyone for their very hard and focused work that has clearly benefitted our students.”
For more information about SMART goals and the WKCE results go to the district’s website at www.hudson.k12.wi.us or contact the Learning Services office at (715)377-3705.