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Enrollment is up, but preliminary scores trigger massive remedial effort in reading

Directors of Andrew H. Wilson Charter School got a grim report on student performance at their Sept. 27 meeting. Teachers described preliminary student test scores as “grim” and then detailed  aggressive initiatives to improve academic performance.

Board members present were David Winkler-Schmit, Latoya Cantrell, Nancy Marshall, Christina Jones, Santiago Burgos, Derek Rabb. Absentees were Sharon Hyde-Augillard and  Stephen Tremaine. The audience numbered 14, including a reporter from The Lens.

Among troubling statistics presented to the board:  Just 11 percent of fifth graders meet grade-level benchmarks.

“These are students who (have) just passed the LEAP,” said Ronicka
Briscoe, the third-through-fifth grade chairperson, referring to the standardized test Louisiana students must pass to move from fourth to fifth grade.

Also of concern: Sixty-five percent of fourth graders need intensive academic help in order to reach  grade level. “We’ve got to close this gap. We’ve got to move,” Principal Logan Crowe told the Broadmoor Charter School Board members.

Almost half of the school’s third graders are receiving some kind of reading intervention. Forty-two percent of fourth graders and 30 percent of fifth graders are getting help with reading, Briscoe said.

To that end, third through fifth grades have been broken into 19 specialized reading
groups that meet for 45 minutes every morning. In addition, three reading interventionists
are working with 30 students in grades three through five who require intensive help with reading comprehension and vocabulary. Students are also encouraged to take advantage of after-school tutoring by staffers on weekday afternoons.

Even the good news wasn’t all that good: Seventy-nine percent of second graders scored below grade level on a timed reading test – an improvement on last year’s 86-percent. Maryann
Bohlke, a teacher and K-3 chair, said the school is bringing in tutors and requiring 12 students to participate in a Saturday morning program to improve reading skills.

The upper grades are also a focus of concern. Every grade level in middle school tested better last year than this year, said Janice Bailey-Walker, a teacher and sixth-through-eighth grade
chairperson.

With enrollment at 556, the school has double the number of sixth graders as last year.

There are more than 100 new students in all grade levels and there’s a waiting list for eighth and fourth grades, as well as kindergarten.

“Looking at the hand we’re dealt with, we’re going to do as much as we can to get the kids to where they need to be,” Bailey-Walker said.

Next week, the school will begin prepping students for next spring’s LEAP test.

A bright spot was the lower school. The kindergarten class showed higher scores than last year, even with just 54 percent of students testing at the benchmark level for reading comprehension. Twenty-one percent of kindergarten students need strategic academic help and 23 percent need intensive tutoring to reach grade level, the board was told.

First graders also showed improvement from last year. Seventy-one percent are at benchmark compared to only 54 percent last year, yet 21 percent of students are in need of intense tutoring.

Board members made few comments about the bleak numbers but expressed approval of programs and initiatives to improve test scores.

In other business, members tabled a vote on requiring the staff to “use it or lose it” regarding their paid personal time off. Members want to change the school policy so that staff can only carry over 10 paid days from one school year to the next.

The board also voted to require that each member must make a $500 donation to the school.

The fundraising committee is pursuing a $90,000 grant that could fund after-school athletics and arts programs.

The next board meeting will be on Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the school cafeteria.

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