The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 4, 2012

Superintendent: Schools are making good gains

By Deb Olson
Letter to the Editor

CLINTON — This letter is in response to the article and headline in the October 1, 2012 Clinton Herald that declared, “All but one Clinton School on ‘No Child’ assistance list.”

If one takes the time to read the article in the paper there are actually more schools in the district that are not on the assistance list. All of the schools were on the list at one time, but not for this coming year.

It is frustrating to me that the paper would want readers to believe that the district has not made significant academic gains this year, in fact, it has done so.

No Child Left Behind is a piece of federal legislation passed approximately ten years ago that mandated that every public school student in the United States would be proficient in reading and mathematics by the year 2014 regardless of gender, poverty status, ethnicity, or learning ability.

Test results are broken down to see how each of these sub-groups performs on this achievement test. Many districts in Iowa only have one sub-group, gender. The Clinton district has all sub-groups.

The federal government allowed each state to determine, by year, until 2014, the percentage of students that would need to be proficient based on a standardized test. Iowa chose the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) and the Iowa Tests of Educational Development (ITED). These tests were replaced this past year (2011) by the Iowa Assessments.

The closer the date moves to 2014, the higher the percentage of students needed for proficiency increases. It gets increasingly more difficult for districts and schools to remain “off” the list the closer that the nation gets to 2014. The state of Iowa applied for a waiver to not be held to the sanctions of NCLB in 2011. This waiver was denied by the federal government.

Districts and individual schools are determined to be a District In Need of Assistance (DINA) or a School In Need of Assistance (SINA) if they fail to meet the percentage of students who are proficient during a specific year.

Even if only one sub-group is not proficient that will cause a district or school to be listed as a DINA or SINA for that year. According to state reporting, Clinton High School, Jefferson Elementary, and Whittier Elementary have not been identified as SINA schools for 2012.

CHS and Jefferson both were removed from SINA designations because of significant increases to their levels of proficiency in both reading and math. Whittier has never been identified as a SINA school.

Washington and Lyons are SINA schools in both reading and math, even though in the last three years, each had been removed for a year from the list. Washington was removed for a year in 2009, and Lyons was removed in 2010.

Bluff has been designated as a SINA for reading because of not making adequate progress in one-sub group area. Eagle Heights became a SINA in both reading and math for this year.

The district was cited this year (2012) for not making adequate progress in math. A year ago (in 2011) the district had been removed from being a DINA math. This year (2012) the district was removed from the list for reading. The district had been listed the last five previous years in not making progress.

As stated above, it is extremely difficult to be removed from the DINA or SINA list once a district or school appears. As the year 2014 approaches, the percentage of students proficient increases dramatically making the possibility of being removed from the DINA/SINA list not very likely. 

However, that is exactly what happened to individual schools in our district and overall in our district within the last three years. The progress that has been made is testimony to the hard work of our students and staff in the Clinton district.

There have been substantial gains in both areas of reading and math. The district has been cited in the last two years by the Governor and the State Board of Education for the tremendous gains that the district has had on the Iowa tests. Clinton was the only district in the state of Iowa that was awarded that distinction.

It would be my hope that our community will take the time to read beyond the headlines, to see the great achievements that are happening everyday with the schools in our district. That's not to say we never have any issues or are satisfied with our levels of achievement. We are not; the Clinton district is a work in progress.

At any time, when you have questions or if there is a concern or issue, please bring it my attention. My commitment is focused on educating all students to their highest level of achievement through an engaging curriculum in a caring community.

Deb Olson is the superintendent of the Clinton School District.