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Verndale school working on Adequate Yearly Progress

Photo by Brian Hansel The Verndale AYP Improvement Committee of Ardith Carr, left, LuAnn Preschure, Sheri Bremer and Chris Bounds made a report Monday night at the October meeting of the Verndale School Board.

The wheels are turning in Verndale as Paul Brownlow, Justin Sperling and the teaching staff work on the school's problems associated with AdequateYearly Progress (AYP).

Testing has shown that Verndale has been deficient in some of the standards of elementary special education reading and math. The federal government's No Child Left Behind Act demands that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

Sperling, the new dean of students, had four members of his AYP Improvement Committee at Monday night's October meeting of the District 818 board. Representing the committee were instructors Ardith Carr, LuAnn Preschure, Sheri Brewer and Chris Bounds.

Being in violation of AYP standards, according to Superintendent Brownlow, means that 10 percent of a school's federal funding is withheld from schools and used to help teachers improve their teaching methods and strategies.

"We showed progress in special education reading and with another year of similar growth we will be removed from not making adequate yearly progress," Sperling said. "We'll need two consecutive years of making progress in special education math."

Verndale's school improvement plan has put some strategies in place that address both K-12 special education and general education math.

"We found a gap between third- and fourth- and sixth- and seventh-grade scores," Bounds said. "We are going to what is called curriculum mapping."

Mapping comes down to helping students prepare for the standardized tests by giving them the right degree of instruction in what they need to know.

"The teachers will look at what they have taught the previous two months and see how that aligns with state standards and test specifications," said Sperling. "Basically we want to use state standards and test specifications to help guide and pace our units and lessons."

The reading strategy is to continue to work with the Freshwater Education District on an early childhood literacy program.

Brownlow reported that the district has received a Minnesota Reading First Scaling Up K-3 reading instruction grant of $100,000. A portion of the money will be used to hire current second grade teacher Lisa Paulson as a literacy coach and find another teacher to take her position. Paulson will observe reading classes in each class room and share her observations and recommendations with the teachers.

With the second full month of school underway, Brownlow was complimentary of the work Sperling and the teaching staff is doing in addressing curriculum issues. Verndale has been integrating seven new teachers into the staff.

One of the teaching tools that has been popular and effective is the "Smart" Board interactive white board technology. The school has 13 interactive boards in use and pending a meeting by the budget committee, could have 5-7 more in use by December. The boards cost $3,000-$3,500 per unit but have a wide range of uses, including bringing students up to speed on class work they have missed.

"They are popular with the kids, the teachers and the administration," Brownlow said. "They're a fantastic technology."

District 818 school board elections are coming up Nov. 3. Bill Blaha and Jim Runyan are running for re-election. Harvey Schoon is not running for another term. New candidates on the ballot will be Scott Veronen and Jeremy Schwartz. School board voting will be held 5-8 p.m. in the school commons. The board will canvass school board election results at a 6:30 p.m. meeting Nov. 5.