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Pine Tree ISD targets literacy

By Meredith Shamburger
Oct. 13, 2017 at 4 a.m.


If there's one concern for Pine Tree ISD educators this year, it's literacy. The fact that many students struggle to read at their grade level is an issue that officials say they're specifically targeting through academic intervention and other programs.

It's "to bring them up as close to grade level as we can get them," Pine Tree Middle School Principal Mickey White said. "Now we've got these kiddos who are reading on a first-grade level and some below that. We're not going to get them all the way up to fifth and sixth grade (in) a year, but if I can get them, let's say up two grade levels, and the next year if I can get them up two more grade levels, then (Pine Tree Junior High Principal Vanessa Robinson has) got a shot with them when they finally hit seventh and eighth grade."

The Pine Tree ISD Board of Trustees approved its 2017-18 district and campus improvement plans at a special meeting Thursday, bringing in district officials and school principals to discuss performance goals they're focusing on this school year.

Literacy and the district's response to intervention programs are two issues all of the plans specifically focus on, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Daya Hill told trustees.

Texas school districts are required to submit district and campus improvement plans to the Texas Education Agency, with items included as required by state and federal rules, as well as financial audit guidelines, each year. The plans are working documents, with a finalized version sent to the state after the school year is over — meaning the plans discussed Thursday can be updated throughout the year as needed.

The idea is to create a comprehensive needs assessment and ways to reach desired outcomes, as school administrators work toward better results for students overall and for individual population groups.

The district has identified gaps between where students should be and where they are. That includes the "Tier 1" category, which is the district's overall general instruction. Pine Tree is seeing too many students not reaching that category, Hill said.

"We know that has to improve," she said.

The number of students needing additional academic intervention should follow a pyramid pattern, Pine Tree Primary School Principal Kristi Parsons told trustees: about 80 percent succeeding under the general instruction, about 15 percent needing some help and the rest needing more help.

"Right now we have an inverted pyramid, and our Tier 1 is not reaching 80 percent of our students," she said. "Our data shows that. So what we're having to do is put money in Tier 2 and Tier 3, but as we get really good at Tier 1 instruction, our pyramid will flip the correct way."

Part of the discussion Thursday centered around targeting interventions as soon as possible, so students can close performance gaps sooner, and making sure interventions are aligned, so if students move to a new campus, they can continue to build on their progress.

That's something Parkway Elementary Principal Melanie Keoun is looking at for students in that gap. Having more intervention as students go through school will help them get to the academic level they should be at.

"If we start following this same group, we should see them not having that gap," she said.

District officials also say the move to full-day prekindergarten is going to pay off for students overall and for minority groups, because everyone's getting more instruction time at that foundational level.

Superintendent T.J. Farler said attendance has been "remarkable." It's gone from the low 80s for the half-day program to 95 percent this year, she said.

"I think you're going to see the increase; it's going to be worth the investment that we had with those students as they go into kindergarten and first grade," she said.

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