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Efforts to boost basic skills have mixed results

Mixed results have been seen during the past two years at seven Rochester public schools targeted for improvements in math and reading proficiency, according to a Post-Bulletin analysis of assessment data from the Minnesota Department of Education.

The seven "Tier 1" schools have been the focus of special instruction for some students from classroom teachers and specialists since the 2008-2009 school year, when the Rochester school district rolled out a five-year plan for improving student proficiency as measured by the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments-Series II.

Here's how Tier 1 schools have fared so far, according to MCA-II results:

• Drops in both reading and math proficiency have happened at two Tier 1 schools since 2008, Gage Elementary and Riverside Central Elementary. Decreases at Riverside were both about 10 percentage points.

• Both math and reading proficiency rose since 2008 at one school, Ben Franklin Elementary.


• Proficiency rose in one subject and decreased in another at three schools, Bamber Valley Elementary, Century High School and John Marshall High School. Large gains were seen in math at Century (15.6 percentage points) and reading at John Marshall (11.8 percentage points).

• Reading and math scores remained basically level at John Adams Middle School from 2008 to 2010.

"We've seen some great success at some places, and we've had some disappointments at others," said Susanne Griffin-Ziebart, the district's executive director of school improvement and accountability.

Griffin-Ziebart stressed the complexities involved in the math and reading "interventions," as district officials call the programs of targeted, remedial instruction that are part of the 2008-2013 five-year strategic plan.

"What we really have to do is identify which interventions are most successful with which kids," she said. It became clear last year, for example, that one of the district's reading intervention programs, Read 180, helped students more who were significantly behind than those "on the bubble" of proficiency, she said.

Superintendent Romain Dallemand said students selected for interventions are often two to four years behind their peers academically, so their growth each year should be the measure of success, not necessarily whether they reach proficiency.

Reading and math interventions expanded to eight more schools, called "Tier 2" schools, during the 2009-2010 school year. Three schools saw increases in math and reading proficiency, two saw decreases in both subjects, and three saw increases in one subject and decreases in another.

Another five schools, called Tier 3, are scheduled for math and reading interventions in the coming school year.

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