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Becky Schmidt, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Columbus School District, talks about the district's decision to use Units of Study to improve reading and writing scores at the Sept. 10 board meeting. The district began using the program last fall.

Columbus School District showed growth is several key areas based on 2017-18 state assessment data, according to a district press release.

The trend in student proficiency had been down. In 2015, the district completed an equity audit and identified three priority areas: literacy, math, and co-serving for students.

Since 2016, staff who provide services such as special education, literacy intervention, and other pupil services, have provided integrated services in the classrooms as much as appropriate in order to provide students with an inclusive model that meets the needs of individual students and encourages deeper collaboration with the classroom teacher.

To address literacy needs, in 2017, the district systemically changed the writing curriculum and provided staff with ongoing professional development and coaching to support them in the implementation. In 2018, the reading and phonics curriculum changed as well, and staff continue to receive ongoing professional development, coaching and support.

These efforts have led to immediate results in student performance, according to the district. On the Forward Exam, taken by grade 3-8 students, student achievement rose from 42.2 percent in 2016-17 to 51.1 percent in 2017-18, an 8.9 percent increase. At the high school level, proficiency for grade 11 students on the ACT rose from 41.0 percent to 45.0 percent. Every cohort of students who received study through the Units of Study resource in 2017-18 showed an increase in proficiency on a state assessment between 7.7-15.8 percent.

In English Language Arts, demographic subgroups of students also demonstrated increased proficiency from 2016-17 to 2017-18. On the Forward Exam, proficiency of students who have disabilities increased 3.9 percent. Proficiency of students who are economically disadvantaged rose 10.4 percent; students who are English Language Learners proficiency improved 5.4 percent. Improvement of students of different race and ethnicities ranged from 8.3-17.9 percent.

In math, overall student proficiency is above state average on the Forward, ACT Aspire, and ACT assessments. Students in some subgroups also showed growth between 2016-17 and 2018-19: students with disabilities (0.6 percent), students who are economically disadvantaged (3.0 percent), English Language Learners (19.3 percent), and students who are Hispanic (22 percent).

To improve performance in math, in 2018, math staff in grades 6-12 have been receiving ongoing professional development and coaching support to assist in implementation of stronger mathematical teaching practices, while simultaneously reviewing curriculum for future upgrade. Grades K-5 staff have been focusing on the literacy changes but will also receive intensive training and ongoing coaching support beginning in summer 2019. Support for literacy and co-serving through professional development, collaboration, and planning will remain for staff going forward.

The district believes that by focusing on literacy, all students will grow into avid readers and writers. By improving math curriculum and practice, students will develop into creative problem solvers and critical thinkers. Co-serving and inclusive practices allows all students access to learning at high levels.