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U-46 Board reviews kindergarten survey data

By Seth Hancock
  School District U-46 had a less than expected number of parents offer feedback on its kindergarten survey after the first year of implementing full-day kindergarten (FDK) district wide in the 2016-17 school year.
  The results of the survey, which also included a survey of teachers, as well as academic results were presented to the Board of Education in July. Only 561 parents provided feedback, or 21 percent.
  “We were hoping for a higher response rate,” said Brian Lindholm, professional development and project manager, who added the district has “some ideas to increase participation” in the future.
  The district segregated out respondents based on lunch status, paid or free and reduced price, as well as by racial lines. Lindholm said “the breakdown of the respondents were not fully representative of the district” as he said white families and fully-paid families were overrepresented.
  One of the questions asked was “how much does the school value the diversity of children’s backgrounds?” That received 76 percent positive responses.
  “Our overall response at 76 percent is fairly positive,” said Lindholm, but he said black respondents came in “quite a bit lower.”
  “We really need to understand the perspectives of our African-American parents and maybe why they answered the questions the way they did,” Lindholm said. “We shared these results with Ron Raglin (assistant superintendent). He had several ideas with how we could engage with these parent groups better.”
  However, all other racial subgroups came in with relatively similar feedback including whites, Asians, Hispanic/Latino and those with two or more races.
  Barriers to engagement received the highest positive feedback from parents at 85 percent, but only 26 percent had favorable answers on family engagement which was downplayed by the administration.
  Lindholm said that “at face value, the 26 percent looks awful but relative to our peers it placed us at right about the 50th percentile” and he added “for whatever reason, this was a much higher bar” within the responses available for the questions.
  Teachers, many of whom were new hires with the expansion, responded relatively positive across the questions with 100 percent choosing favorable responses to the question: “On most days, how enthusiastic are the students about being at school?”
  “To me, that is quite a celebration,” said Peggy Ondera, director of early learning. “If children are excited about coming to school, we can move mountains.”
  The district also gave some of the results from the state-mandated Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) assessment which included 21 measurements dealing with approaches to learning, social and emotional development, physical development, language and literacy development, cognition: math and cognition: science.
  The results given included curiosity and initiative in learning, number sense, phonological awareness and social interactions with familiar adults. Among all four categories the number of students at or above the benchmark increased from the start of the year to the end of the year.
  The Differentiated Literacy Battery results showed 54 percent of students reading at or above grade level. In 2015-16 there was 47 percent reading at or above grade level, and there were 50 percent in 2014-15.
  Readiness data for incoming students, coming from students in U-46 preschools, were well below expectations for letter identification. The district had a goal of 66 percent ready but only had 48 percent ready, but last year the number was closer to expectations with a district goal of 63 percent and 60 percent of students being ready. U-46’s goal increases to 75 percent by 2019.
  While the parental survey respondents were segregated, board member Melissa Owens wanted the KIDS assessment data broken down by race, gender and special education.
  “We know that we have an achievement gap…. Can we get an idea of where we’re starting at kindergarten and see how that relates to as the kids move through the system?” Owens asked.
  “Ultimately that’s what we want to do,” Ondera said.
  Casey Pearce, the student advisor to the board, asked if the district will continue to use surveys for the FDK families as their children advance to see if “it makes a difference,” and Lindholm said “that’s something we’d like to address” which may come in some other method than a survey.
  Board member Phil Costello asked about how the questions and responses were given, specifically if it was multiple choice or with a chance to offer comments. Lindholm said that “most of the questions were just multiple choice” but a few sought open-ended comments.
  While the district showed a comparison to prior years regarding literacy, board member Jeanette Ward asked if there was any data regarding math. Ondera said that “up until the KIDS assessment we have not had any measure of math or any of the other domains as well.”
  Ward responded: “So, there’s no other measures academically or otherwise that we can compare to pre-full day kindergarten?”
  “I can look into that, but at this point there isn’t anything that I can think of that we can compare that to,” Ondera said.



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