Phyllis Kohel, Milford School District Superintendent
As is common nature for all of us, we hope that this coming year will be better than the last. In the Milford School District, we have shared many triumphs, but we have also been forced to reflect on necessary changes. Overall, we are very proud of all of our administrators and teachers. With new demands for student and teacher accountability, our teachers have been faced with new initiatives such as Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, along with a new State assessment: Smarter Balanced. Educators will also face a new Accountability Framework that will be used to rate the teachers as well as the school performance. However, we have worked hard to face all of the challenges put before us because our number one priority is to offer our students the best education possible.
At the elementary level, we have had a great year. Evelyn I. Morris Early Childhood Center has been recognized as a model school among Delaware’s many early childhood programs. In fact, just recently, the school received a message from the Delaware Department of Education congratulating the district as Morris Early Childhood Center has been designated as a Star Level 4 program. Delaware Stars for Early Success is Delaware’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) administered by the Delaware Department of Education as a method to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early care and education and school-age settings. The goal of Delaware Stars is to invest in participating programs to increase access to high quality care for all of Delaware’s children, especially those from low-income families. Programs are given a rating of 1-5 stars, with 5 stars being the highest that can be attained. Morris ECC will continue to add additional opportunities to include more typically developing children in their special education pre-kindergarten program in order to attain the Star Level 5. With making some changes, it will be difficult to add more numbers to the pre-K program because of space, but the administration and staff at Morris are always up for a challenge.
In grades 1 through 5, we have Benjamin Banneker, Ross Elementary, and Mispillion Elementary. For the 2013-2014 school year, Banneker was one of the highest performing elementary schools in the state. Every group within the school showed growth over the previous year. Approximately 89% of all students in the school met or exceeded the standards in reading and/or math. Banneker contributes much of their success to Differentiated Instruction (DI) as an instructional method for teaching. DI fosters the teacher’s ability to plan instruction to meet a variety of learning styles and academic levels during a lesson. They also implement RTI, Response to Intervention, which provides intervention or enrichment to all of the students based on their individual needs in reading and math.
At Ross Elementary, as with Banneker and Mispillion, the staff has adopted a new reading and math program to assist in meeting the demands of Common Core. The Ross curriculum includes an approach that also focuses on differentiated instruction, higher order thinking skills, comprehension, and word study. For 2013-2014, Ross also met Adequately Yearly Progress (AYP) by having approximately 78% of its students meeting or exceeding State standards in grades 3 through 5 in math and 75% in reading. This is outstanding.
Mispillion Elementary, as with all of our schools, has fully implemented the use of the Common Core State Standards. These standards provide the framework for English Language Arts and Mathematics and encourage higher-level thinking and problem-solving skills. Their focus on using data to direct instruction allows teachers to target their materials and instruction to meet the needs of each student. The administration and staff at Mispillion have done an outstanding job of preparing students for the next level. This is validated by the fact that during the 2014 State assessment, an average of 81% of all students, grades 3 through 5, met or exceeded the standards for reading and 75% met or exceeded the standards for math.
Milford Central Academy’s (MCA) mission is to provide world class instruction to every student, in every class, every day. World class instruction is defined as a classroom where all students are actively engaged in appropriate and rigorous learning activities where the teacher is coaching and facilitating learning. To accomplish this they focus on three areas including Curriculum, Instruction and Continuous Improvement. MCA did not make AYP last year due to missing two subgroups, they did have 70% of their students meet or exceed standards in reading and 65% in math. Plans are already in place to address the needs of the school. Just this year, they have adopted a new math curriculum, “Big Ideas,” which is more closely aligned to the Common Core Standards.
Milford High School also missed making AYP based on the percentage of growth with two particular subgroups. Overall, however, in grades 9 and 10, 64% of the students met or exceeded the standards in reading and 63% in math. Like Milford Academy, the high school newly adopted a new math curriculum and will be working to develop a scope and sequence for every course to insure its alignment with Common Core.
With the adoption of the new State assessment next year, every school administrator across the State is wondering how they will fare. The Department of Education (DOE) in Dover has stated that they expect to see a drop in scores based on the new assessment and its new structure. DOE has stated that unlike the old tests, the new tool employs national benchmarks, Common Core State Standards, that will allow educators to compare student achievement between schools, districts, and participating states to ensure that students are making adequate progress. Whatever the future holds for this district, rest assured that everyone is working to do what is best for our students.