SYCAMORE – The Sycamore School District 427 Board met away from home Tuesday at the DeKalb County History Center, 1730 N. Main St., to view the results of the district’s partnership with the center and hear the annual report from Kristine Webster, director of teaching and learning.
Carol Meeks, a board member for the center and a retired District 427 teacher, opened the meeting by providing the board with a tour of the recently opened facilities.
Meeks focused on how the center provides opportunities for collaboration with schools.
The most ambitious project of the past year was working with 21 Sycamore students to produce video interviews with local farmers about the future of agriculture in DeKalb County. One video, created by students Mason Dukes, Reese Beeh, Elizabeth Sharp and Tyler Ekstrom, featured interviews with Dave and Don Halverson about their experiences with wind and solar farming. Meeks said that the students benefited from producing work about a locally controversial topic.
“We’re proud of the fact that we could work with these kids,” she said.
The meeting continued with a report from Webster outlining new high school and elementary school pilot programs that rolled out in the past year. One, the SMS Vocabulary program for middle schoolers, helped Sycamore eighth-graders compete and win at state championship in the subject.
Webster’s primary report, however, focused on insights from student Measures of Academic Progress test scores. Overall, students made gains in both reading and math, but not enough to meet increasing state standards.
“We are hovering in a good place, but we need to see more,” Webster said.
More, in this instance, means a 3% and 4% increase in growth in the core subjects of math and reading, compared with the 2% gains students have achieved.
Board member Kris Wrenn expressed concern that the schools might not be able to adapt quickly to new growth goals. Webster said that they would with the help of the new instructional coaching model, which will bring in two coaches for reading and math to assist teachers with their instruction practices.
“They can model and observe,” she said. “They can analyze data, pull resources for teachers and provide professional development.”
MAP test scores can be used to show areas that need work not just across the state and district, but also across buildings and classrooms. Webster said, these scores can be an excellent starting place to implement changes that will allow students to grow more each year.