Lone Tree leads Grant Wood Area Education Agency in reading proficiency

By Amber Jacque
Posted 8/31/21

As the school year begins, the Lone Tree Elementary staff is preparing for another great year. However, once again, this staff is not going to let COVID get in their way of great teaching and student …

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Lone Tree leads Grant Wood Area Education Agency in reading proficiency

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As the school year begins, the Lone Tree Elementary staff is preparing for another great year. However, once again, this staff is not going to let COVID get in their way of great teaching and student growth. This staff is determined to continue the hard work it takes to close the achievement gap with students in the area of reading.

Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, many adjustments were made to ensure the safety of the Lone Tree students. Mitigation strategies were put in place in hopes to keep the school doors open. Teachers went above and beyond following the expectations put in place to sanitize, disinfect, clean and maintain social distancing. Although it was something added to their plate, the goal for all of them was to keep the school doors open.

The Lone Tree School District is one of thirty-two districts that is supported by the Grant Wood Area Education Agency. This agency supports schools in numerous ways including the data collection and reporting of the assessments of school districts. It was in an administrative meeting this summer that Principal Amber Jacque learned of the exciting news that the Lone Tree Elementary students performed at the top of the list out of the 32 districts that GWAEA serves.

Schools in the GWAEA area include similar sized schools such as Highland and English Valleys, but also the schools of Mid-Prairie, Washington, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. Throughout the AEA, schools reported anywhere from 39% of their kids being proficient to 77% of the kids being proficient and Lone Tree sat on top with 77%.

Districts are required by the state to give the Functional Analysis Screening Tool (FAST) three times per year. This is a screening tool that helps teachers identify students that may be at-risk in the area of reading. Teachers then analyze this data and support students with daily intervention — in addition to the required 90 minutes of daily reading instruction — to ensure the needs of the students are being met.

So, what did Lone Tree do that impacted the student growth? When students returned from the COVID shutdown of March 2020, the initial screening showed that only 59% of the students scored at a proficient level. This was following the two months of online learning and the summer break.

We knew our kids were capable of doing better than that, so we set a goal as we do every year to turn that number around. It was challenging because we had all of the new mitigation strategies in place. Teachers were not able to join groups of kids to help support one another so all intervention took place in the classroom. That could have been a significant variable because the classroom teachers know their students the best. Also, our instructional time was maximized as we didn’t have any assemblies or “extra” activities going on throughout the school day.

Moving forward into the new school year, the Lone Tree staff will once again focus on student growth.

I am so proud of our teaching staff and how hard they continued to work and focus on students through these trying times. They have proven that we can do this wonderful work with our students even when the times get tough. It is truly a remarkable staff that I am so honored to work with. As far as our students go, the staff and I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids to teach and support on a daily basis. They really are special.

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