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Morris Jeff sees enrollment boom while some test scores are a bust

While the line of students hoping to enter its doors grows, Morris Jeff still needs to bolster achievement inside school walls, the board learned at its meeting June 21, which included a discussion of the school’s budget.

Already one over its sixty student cap for pre-Kindergarten, the school has a 76-student waiting list.  Morris Jeff’s first grade has expanded to 86 students at present, well beyond the 75-student target.  Consequently, class sizes will jump to 28 or 29 students per classroom instead of 25.

Meanwhile, underwhelming math scores on the third grade iLEAP tests drew concern from the board. Forty-six percent of students performed below the “Basic Achievement Level” in math.  Students did not fare much better in reading, with 39 percent placing below “Basic” in English Language Arts.

Student performance was stronger in science and social studies, which Principal Patricia Perkins attributed to the integration of the International Baccalaureate approach to those subjects.  Perkins plans to more fully incorporate International Baccalaureate practices into Math and English instruction to better engage children and, hopefully, to improve performance.

Perkins held a faculty meeting to specifically address the school’s math difficulties and plans to provide additional professional development in an effort to help improve teaching.

Year-end assessments depict a somewhat difficult year for first grade students, with 83 percent of students entering the year at grade level and only 69 percent finishing there.  Difficulties with one of the first grade teachers were among the reasons discussed.

Reading assessments available for grades K-2 show that students, on average, are not advancing a full grade level over the course of the school year.  Perkins plans “really strong and really targeted” intervention to assist students who have fallen behind.

The board approved the 2012-2013 budget, which finance committee chair Melissa Jagers deemed “conservative.”  Jagers highlighted a general “20 percent increase in everything…to account for population growth.”

When asked whether enough money had been budgeted to allow for funds to cover professional development discussed at this most recent meeting, Perkins assured the board that school has “ample” staff and funds set aside to be ready for next year.

Perkins said she is, “really confident that these teachers are going to do a great job.”

The school has added five new staff members for next year, all of whom have at least five years of experience.  Perkins hopes to fill the final staffing vacancy this week.

Perkins is also looking for improved food options for next year, naming Revolution Foods and Sodexo as possible suppliers.  The finance committee is working to provide data on the past year’s food service expenses to help inform the decision.

Collection of dues for participation in the afterschool “Explorers” program continues to be an issue.  The school will send out a notice with report cards informing parents that remaining dues must be paid before students can participate in next year’s Explorers program.

The board will send a letter to the city government requesting a code enforcement sweep in the area surrounding the Fiske Howard location to discourage blight and help improve the overall quality of the neighborhood.

The nearly two and a half hour meeting adjourned at 8:30.

In addition to Jagers, board members Aesha Rasheed, Jolene Jeff, Belinda Cambre, Wanda Guillaume, Jennifer Weishaupt, Jana Smith and Stacey Gengel were present.  Perkins and the new Director of Finance and Operations, Jared Frank, were also in attendance.

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