School Board discusses elementary school’s data-driven instruction

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At its regular meeting Wednesday, the Berkeley Unified School District Board heard a presentation about data-driven instruction at Rosa Parks Elementary School and discussed the future of the Berkeley Technology Academy, or BTA.

Brook Pessin-Whedbee and Matilde Merello, two staff members of Rosa Parks Elementary School, gave the board a presentation on how the school has been using data to support students who are below the benchmark reading level.

In addition to evaluating students’ reading scores every six weeks, the school developed a “data tracker” — a new data system shared with the entire school that is constantly updated, according to Pessin-Whedbee.

The data tracker makes reading scores of every student at the school accessible, and also shows each student’s focal areas and reading habits as well as which reading programs they attended, Pessin-Whedbee said. These programs include reading intervention during or after school, reading clubs and tutoring with UC Berkeley students.

In addition to existing reading intervention programs, the school has started to offer individual reading coaching and progress monitoring for every student who is below the benchmark reading level since October 2016, Merello said. Progress monitoring entails a progress conference between a student and their coach every six weeks, during which the student sees their progress visually represented in a graph and sets new goals for coming weeks, according to several short videos that Merello and Pessin-Whedbee presented to the board.

The videos provided examples of two students who were far below the benchmark reading level at the beginning of the school year who now have or almost have reached the benchmark, thanks to individual coaching and progress monitoring.

Merello and Pessin-Whedbee also presented data demonstrating that while in October 2016, 77 students at Rosa Parks Elementary School were below the benchmark reading level, this number had reduced to only 55 students as of February 2017.

Ardarius McDonald, principal of BTA, presented an update to the board regarding new programs the school is offering and partnerships it is maintaining. He asked the board to encourage a voluntary transfer process from Berkeley High School to BTA in order to address BTA’s decreasing enrollment numbers and enable it to gain a better reputation.

“Our feeder school is BHS,” McDonald said. “We don’t have a Longfellow, a Willard and a King to feed us. We are relying on BHS and in that we are very dependent. We are very dependent in our enrollment numbers.”

Board member Judy Appel agreed that with a voluntary transfer process, students might choose to attend BTA because of the small learning environment.

The school board also discussed a number of recommendations that Patricia Saddler, BUSD director of programs and special projects, made for the 2017-18 Local Control Accountability Plan — a plan that secures state funds to improve achievement for all students. Additionally, the board approved a recommendation for the allocation of Berkeley Schools Excellence Program funds towards class size reduction.

The school board passed a number of motions, including a new course sequence in science instruction at Berkeley High School. The new course sequence will conform to Next Generation Science Standards, which the board discussed at a meeting last month.

Board President Ty Alper encouraged members of the public to join the Construction Bond Oversight Committee, which has an “independent watchdog role of monitoring and reporting the expenditures of Measure I,” according to a special notice by BUSD.

Charlotte Kosche covers schools and communities. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @CharlotteKosche.