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February 21, 2016
by: Ted Hamm

Charter Contract Renewal: IDEAS Academy Goals

Dear Parents, Students, Staff, and Friends, 

The essence of the charter school contract is a set of goals that the charter school must achieve in exchange for the freedom to implement its educational program. Recently, I shared a blog highlighting the educational program, essentially, one side of the charter school equation. In this blog, I would like to share with you an overview of our performance on our goals, including strengths and areas we are addressing. This specific blog will focus on IDEAS with subsequent blogs focusing in on Mosaic and ESAA. When looking at this, I believe it is important to remember that we, like any organization, are in a continual improvement process. We look at our data, determine our strengths in order to cultivate them, look at ways to address our areas for improvement, and, most importantly, continually look for better ways to measure the impact of our educational program on learning.

Demographics
First of all, I have commented in the past that charter schools best serve their communities only when they reflect the demographic makeup of the communities they serve. To this end, we have always kept a close eye on the demographics of our schools and specifically, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. Below are two tables outlining lower socio-economic percentages and students with disabilities percentages for IDEAS and the SASD. They demonstrate our commitment to representing the community we serve and demonstrate that there are areas where we over represent the SASD community.

Demographics Table

Students with Disabilities

 

Economically Disadvantaged Students

 

IDEAS

District

 

IDEAS

District

2011-12

16.50%

16.30%

 

48.80%

41.70%

2012-13

17.80%

17.20%

 

43.40%

37.80%

2013-14

20.30%

17%

 

44.50%

38.30%

2014-15

23.40%

16.50%

 

39.30%

35.60%

2015-16

21.40%

17.10%

 

50%

40.40%

 

School Goals
Goal 1: IDEAS students will perform at or above the SASD average growth rate as measured by the Measure of Academic Progress in grades 9 & 10.
The year following the approval of the original IDEAS Academy contract, five years ago, the SASD made a decision to stop testing the general high school population of the district in the Measure of Academic Progress (MAPs). This decision was made due to belief that the test stopped being reliable to a significant number of students after grade 8. IDEAS Academy continued to test students’ reading levels throughout high school and shared that data with students. The type of growth measured by the MAP is now being measured using the ACT Aspire assessment. These results will be part of the goals in the next five year contract.

Goal 2:  IDEAS Academy students will perform at or above the SASD average of students meeting the advanced and proficient threshold on all WKCE tests.
This goal was met 2 out of 3 years for both science and social studies, 1 out of 2 years for reading and was not met for math. The measuring of this goal was limited due to a few issues. During the first year of the contract, the goal was not measured because the test was administered in fall and therefore did not measure the learning from the current school year. Math and reading were not measured last year due to a change in state law ending the use of the WKCE for math and reading and replacing them with ACT Aspire,  ACT, and ACT Workkeys.

If we take the Aspire and ACT data into account from last year, our data follows a similar  pattern. For the ACT Aspire test, which is administered to students in grades 9 and 10 our students exceeded the SASD average in  english, writing, reading, and science. In math, our students still lagging behind the SASD average. For the ACT administered to all of our students in 11th grade (approximately 22 students) our scores fell short of the SASD average.

While the ACT scores show a mark of improvement for IDEAS, it is important to point out that statistically, the ACT has not been shown to be a solid predictor of college success. The ACT’s ability to predict success ends after the first semester of college. When one looks at both the college entrance percentages and percentage of those who enter college entering their second year, IDEAS performs above the SASD average. This is significant to us based on our belief that our schools need to be a pathway for students into the next step in life. These number indicate that the program at IDEAS not only prepares students to get into college, but also prepares them to get through college.

Goal 3: In the 2011-2012 school year 75% of IDEAS Academy students will receive a 3.0 or higher (4.0 standard rubric)on their project based learning evaluations. That number will rise 5% per year until reaching 90%. At that time we will maintain that percentage on a yearly basis.
It is important for our schools to include goals specific to our educational program, since standardized tests measure a small portion of a student’s learning. In fact, much of the research around college success shows that the biggest indicator of success is a student’s ability to participate in and complete a rigorous high school program straight through for four years. It is the quality of the program they are enrolled in that matters most. The IDEAS Academy program prepares these students through open ended, self directed projects that incorporate research, creation, writing, and presenting. Additionally, our advisory program supports ongoing development and reflection in the core habits necessary to be successful. These habits we define as our Habits of Professionalism and Habits of Mind.

For the current contract, we measured the success in our educational program through our rubric for our projects. This is a solid indicator of a student’s work within the comprehensive educational program including the project work integrated with the habits. The goal was met with approximately 50% - 65% of students reaching the two top levels of our rubric. When the third tier (still passing) of our rubric is included 80% - 95% of our students show mastery or approaching mastery of the skills necessary to complete our program of study.

Goal 4: IDEAS Academy students will maintain a 90% graduation rate.
This goal was met 2 out of 3 years. With around 96% of our students graduating within four years. When looking at 5 and 6 year measures of graduation (not every student graduates in four years) we hit 100% graduation.

Goal 5: The IDEAS Academy will maintain a truancy rate equal to or less than the SASD truancy rate for middle school students.
As seemed to be typical for this five year contract, the way the state measured truancy changed in the middle of the contract. As a result, we changed the way we measured our goal and looked to have a 90% attendance rate for our school. This goal was met 3 out of 4 years.

It is also important to point out that for the first two years of the school we had issues with attendance as measured by the state’s school report card. Those issues were fixed with no further issues. The pattern we have seen with our attendance data demonstrates that a number of students come to us with attendance issues. Through our advisory program and the work of Mike Hanlon, our Dean of Culture, approximately 50% of those students show significant improvement in their attendance, approximately 30% of those students tend to leave IDEAS. This leaves approximately 18% of those students still having issues. This is a trend that we saw happening anecdotally in our schools. A certain percentage of our students come to us showing some tendency towards disengagement. Our educational program has taken the research around student engagement and embedded practices throughout the entire school. This is another strength of our school.

Overall, our school serves our students well. As with any organization, we have strengths and we have areas for growth. The biggest area for growth I see is our math scores as measured by standardized test scores. I will be going over this in a separate blog because the topic is multi-faceted and deserves more than a quick explanation. If you have questions about the data, please let me know. We continue to be proud of the work done by our teachers and students; we see our students excelling in college and beyond and know the foundation to our school is strong.

Sincerely,

Ted

 

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