Superintendent Gary Fields says the 2019-20 Comprehensive District Improvement Plan will provide a laser-like focus for Bowling Green City Schools with two main goals: curriculum alignment and equity. Principals and district administrators presented the Comprehensive District Improvement Plan (CDIP) on January 28, 2019 at a scheduled Board of Education meeting.
Director of Curriculum and Instruction Elisa Beth Brown shared the process of developing the plan, including school-level needs assessments, evaluating student data, and aligning overall goals with the district’s expectations. She said the current District Improvement Plan should be considered a three-year plan that will guide the district priorities, school and district professional development, and both the allocation and utilization of resources.
K-12 Curriculum Alignment
School principals shared insight about the various components of the plan and how they relate to schools. Potter Gray Principal, Dr. Byron Darnall spoke to the first goal, intentional alignment of curriculum, and instructional practices and assessments. He said the framework presented in the 2019 CDIP would encourage all schools to share the wealth of talent and resources of educators across the district, while also continually evaluating “power standards.” Standards are the learning goals intended for each grade level, and power standards represent the minimum expectations for the advancement to each school level.
Dr. Darnall believes this work will lead to developing a more student and parent-friendly language for the grade levels, including future revisions of report cards, which assist in communicating what each student is expected to do and can do at each grade level.
Superintendent Fields echoed Darnall’s statements and said this work will help lead to more students owning their individual learning.
Dishman McGinnis Principal Michael Wix shared more about the second step in the process, developing common assessments for students across the school district. He said the work will begin with fifth grade to better support students as they transition to Bowling Green Junior High. Wix said the common assessment work presented in the 2019 plan, as well as scheduled professional development days built in the 2019-20 calendar will create more opportunities for the district to study and evaluate student achievement.
Continuing the work of standards and assessments, W. R. McNeill Principal Kelli Brooks spoke about creating or reviewing district-wide milestones that are vertically aligned. In other words, teachers review their own grade level standards to standards in grade levels above or below their own to determine specific requisites for students. This work will help support consistent teaching and learning expectations across the district and will also create more sustainability among schools and staffs.
Delvagus Jackson of Parker-Bennett-Curry was unable to attend the board meeting but Elisa Beth Brown shared that three months ago PBC teachers began working to align best practices and are encouraged by the growth demonstrated in student achievement.
Elisa Beth Brown said throughout the three-year plan, the work of curriculum alignment will be done strategically, intentionally, but also continually. Curriculum alignment should not be considered a one-time effort. Teachers will be the experts and will work collaboratively with others across the district to develop the alignment framework. However with in school and in each classroom, teachers will continue to have creativity and ownership to develop lessons and activities in their classrooms using best practices designed to help all students grow.
The second primary goal of the 2019 Comprehensive District Improvement Plan is to create an equitable school environment where experiences and successes reflect the diversity of BGISD. There are approximately 4,320 students enrolled in Bowling Green Independent Schools. Approximately, 60% are eligible for free or reduced lunch, over 48% of students are minority students and 15% of students are considered English Language Learners. More than 50 languages and dialects are spoken by students.
Both Bowling Green Junior High and Bowling Green High School have been identified by the Kentucky Department of Education as Targeted Support and Improvement or TSI schools, with gaps in state assessment scores for sub groups of students.
BGHS Principal Will King shared the school’s current efforts to support students, specifically those learning the English language and older students that speak little to no English when enrolling in high school. The school is evaluating current practices, visiting other school districts with similar challenges, and will ultimately create a system of support for both newcomers and BGHS students continuing to receive language support in high school.
BGJHS Principal Cynthia West said when her school evaluated overall state assessment data, the overall school proficiency data was positive, however, when evaluating by demographic groups there were achievement gaps that were evident. West also commented that the demographic makeup of students taking advanced classes is not reflective of the overall school population and plans are in place districtwide to help achieve great diversity in these courses. BGJHS understands the need to create additional supports for all students, and believes the district, being a small district has an advantage to work together to support and meet the needs of all students.
Kory Twyman, Principal of T. C. Cherry reiterated that education is a marathon, not a sprint, and the work isn’t just at one grade level or one school. He said we must continue to look at all students longitudinally as they progress through our school district, especially those falling into gap groups. He thanked the board for their support in providing resources, specifically an addition of a math coach, instructional coaches in the elementary schools, and grade-level counselors and principals in grades 6-12.
Guided by the current District Improvement Plan, all schools will work to identify equity needs across the district and provide access to curriculum programs and supports for all students. The district will also work to improve the district-wide English Language program, including reallocation of funding to provide more teachers. Finally, the district will continue to support students by providing what are considered “wrap-around services.”
Director of Pupil Personnel D. G. Sherrill shared with the Board some of the efforts the school district is providing to students to support teaching and learning, however services that are outside the traditional school day. “First,” he said, “We cannot solve the problems until we identify the problems.”
One way of identifying potential issues for students is by evaluating student absences. Students missing 10% of the school year are considered chronically absent. In other words, students missing over 17 school days per year, excused or unexcused, are at risk of falling behind in their learning.
BGISD has taken a team approach to reducing chronic absenteeism. Sherrill partners with Family Resource and Youth Services Centers, counselors, administrators, and teachers to constantly monitor and follow-up with students who miss school. The first approach is to offer assistance or support to families, as absences could be attributed to a number of causes. Currently, 7.5% of BGISD students are identified as being chronically absent.
Sherrill also shared about the addition of two School and Family Counselors this school year. Tanner Steelman and Amy Carter, are now employed by the district to meet the mental health needs of students. Sherrill said that schools have provided supports for students with medical needs, and we must also focus on student’s mental health. To date, the two counselors (Carter beginning in January 2019) have provided services to approximately 200 students with 30 identified for more intentional therapy.
The Board of Education approved the 2019-20 District Comprehensive Improvement Plan and committed to supporting the district and individual schools to meet additional needs as they are identified to ultimately improve the teaching and learning and eliminate achievement gaps for the students of Bowling Green Independent Schools.