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Feb. 6, 2023

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Evergreen Public Schools in Vancouver unveils plan to aid test scores

District leadership team will ID issues, outline solutions

By , Columbian staff writer

Earlier this month, Evergreen Public Schools unveiled a multistep plan to address lagging standardized test scores and the achievement gap between white students and students of color — a trend that’s not unique to Evergreen, and has occurred across the country.

The plan, which was introduced to Evergreen community members during its Oct. 12 board of directors meeting, will call on its district leadership team to have routine meetings with school administrators and teachers to hear feedback on which student demographics require additional help and how to best address that.

Thirteen members of the leadership team — from Deputy Superintendent Charlene Williams to senior director of special services Matt Hill — will serve as “School Improvement Supporters,” or “SIP Supporters,” visiting select clusters of schools each month and seeing firsthand how curriculum policies and goals are working out in the classroom.

In doing so, Evergreen aims to improve mathematics performance by 13 percentage points across all student groups by next year’s round of statewide Smarter Balanced Assessments.

According to results on the spring 2022 Smarter Balanced Assessment tests, 38.5 percent of students met proficiency standards in English, and 25 percent of students met standards in math.

The process — which leaders said is based on the repetitive nature of the Deming’s Cycle of “Act, Plan, Study, Do” — will go somewhat like the following:

  • In Week 1 of each month, SIP Supporters will meet as a group and update each other on what they’re observing in schools and what their next priorities in observation will look like.
  • In Week 2, each SIP Supporter will meet with their designated group of school administrators to learn about the best ways to observe their school and hear what principals feel the biggest priorities in learning at their respective schools might be.
  • In Weeks 3 and 4, SIP Supporters will visit classrooms and engage with students and teachers throughout the day to see firsthand where classroom educators are struggling and where they can use more help, if needed.

In addition to repeating that process every month, SIP Supporters will present their periodic findings to the school board throughout the year.

The work, district officials said, is not evaluative; rather, it’s part of their goal to better increase the district leadership team’s capacity for understanding how to address achievement gaps at each individual school.

“Our school improvement supporters are sitting with the principal leadership team, looking at classroom data and other data sources to say, ‘OK, this is what’s working, these are groups that still need some support, what are the services we can offer to help those groups do better?’ ” said Williams in an Oct. 13 interview about the plan.

“It’s being really thoughtful and intentional about how we do that work. … So how do we streamline so we can really use a bit of scientific study and improvement science to actually mobilize us to kind of frame our methodology for working with schools as it talks about small tests of change?”

Along with deep dives into test score data, SIP Supporters plan to look closer at results from recent YouthTruth surveys that asked students questions about their social-emotional health and how it translates to life in the classroom.

For example, in 2022, Evergreen’s surveys found that 38 percent of middle school students responded favorably to feeling like they are a part of the school community. For high school students, just 34 percent responded favorably.

Data like that, officials said, can help get a bigger picture of who their students are and how they’re feeling in a way that academic assessments can’t capture. SIP Supporters will be tasked with observing that side of their students, too. Together, Evergreen hopes this renewed focus on data analysis and connecting district leadership with classroom educators can lead to improvement in time for next year’s exams.

“What we need is we need our students to continue returning to Evergreen because that’s how we grow in terms of staff and the support we need,” Williams said. “And in the meantime, while we bounce back from COVID-19, we’re having to be strategic with the resources that we have, which kind of goes back to the all-hands-on-deck approach.

“You know, the hands we have left have to be really precise.”