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ICCSD in need of assistance

IOWA CITY– The Iowa City public school headquarters at 509 S. Dubuque St. was piled with boxes for a Nov. 8 school board meeting. The Central Administrative Office (CAO) will move from its spot south of downtown to the former Press-Citizen building at 1725 N. Dodge St. this week. In addition to the CAO, the site will house the Technology Center, and future plans include offices for the Physical Plant and Food Services departments.
The administrative space has been renamed the Educational Services Center and remained open during last week’s move.
The CAO building was a renovated elementary school named for Henry Sabin and once housed the district’s smallest high school, the Senior High Alternative Center, a precursor to Tate, on its third floor.
The school system’s website is also on the move, a new Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) site is hosted at www.iowacityschools.org.
The web move didn’t go unnoticed by Julie Van Dyke, who took the opportunity to speak during public comment at the Nov. 8 meeting.
Van Dyke, who ran unsuccessfully for the board, said, “You shouldn’t be removing access or visible access to anything on the old website until you’ve replaced it on the new one.” Van Dyke noted that there was no link to the board’s web page to locate past meeting minutes and agendas. She provided a list of fixes for the new site to the superintendent and webmaster.
Targeting fixes in the classroom, Pam Ehly, ICCSD Director of Instruction, gave the board a report on a comprehensive school improvement plan (CSIP) designed to boost math and reading proficiency. The Iowa City school district is in its sixth year of being identified as a district in need of assistance (DINA), and No Child Left Behind requires districts that did not meet state proficiency goals in reading and math to submit annual CSIPs.
According to Ely’s report, approximately 20 percent of ICCSD students are not proficient on ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills) and ITED (Iowa Test of Educational Development) in reading comprehension and math.
The district developed its first CSIP plan in 2004 and uses dozens of data points to create it, including: student achievement data, demographic information, discipline statistics and student and staff perception surveys.
Ehly said the DINA required several steps for the district, “diagnosis, peer review, parent involvement, and an action plan.”
A peer review is also a prescribed part of the DINA assessment. Ehly and Assistant Superintendent Rebecca Furlong met with a Cedar Rapids Community School District curriculum facilitator and members of the Grant Wood Area Education Agency for an annual peer review on Oct. 21, to examine their DINA plans.
Ehly presented the board with a list of board actions to support the plan, highlighting ICCSD’s support of professional development.
“The district has been very fortunate to have some categorical funding to provide [professional development], namely through Title I, Title II, Title VI, and from the state, our teacher quality funds and the Iowa Core Curriculum,” said Ehly.
For example, about 200 teachers took a summer workshop on differentiated instruction.
In a later email communication, Ehly explained the teaching method “encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning” and “fosters both independent and collaborative work.”
She took care to note that differentiated instruction does not alter course content or curriculum. The method helps teachers find different pathways for learning for varying levels of student readiness by tailoring “process, product and outcome” to groups of students, and helps more of them reach potential.
The ICCSD teachers received a stipend of $300 to attend the workshop, via funding from the Iowa Core Curriculum, a state funding source for professional development. They also received credit for re-certification that was coordinated through the Grant Wood Area Education Agency.
At the board meeting, Ehly said the course has a “direct implication right back into their teaching.”
Last year, elementary principals were trained in intervention techniques and all administrators and teachers were trained in the administration of a universal screening test called the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills or “DIBELS Next.”
DIBELS is an individualized assessment used for identifying students who need help.
Ehly’s report also stated that an ICCSD literacy team reformatted the district’s standards and benchmarks into the Student Learning Standards, which will be used to focus on core instruction.
In other board business:
• The board set a date of Nov. 22 for a public hearing to discuss the 2011 Industrial Technology Classrooms project. Bids for the project will be accepted starting Dec. 6 at 2 p.m.
• The state released official ICCSD enrollment showing another 433 students have been added to the district from last year.