Lakeview Middle School ‘narrowing the gap’ between students

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 11:30 am on Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lakeview Middle School Principal Tim Erspamer explains to the school board efforts currently underway at the school to narrow the performance gap between the top and bottom 30 percent of students there. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

LAKEVIEW — There have been all sorts of academic improvements within Lakeview Community Schools in the past couple years. What was once an “at risk” school system now stands as an example of what modern education can be. But administrators there are not sitting on their laurels.

At Lakeview Middle School, Principal Tim Erspamer is determined to see the gap between the highest achieving students and the lowest narrow and keep narrowing. Since being labeled by the state as a “Potential Focus School,” Erspamer and the rest of the school’s staff have implemented numerous changes designed to not only raise the performance level of academically challenged students, but that of the higher achieving students, as well.

The changes are intended to bring test scores up for students below the 30th percentile without sacrificing the academic advancement of those in the top 30 percent.

At Monday evening’s school board meeting, Erspamer presented the recent results of those efforts.

According to Erspamer, recent test scores indicate the steps the school has been taking are indeed working.

“We were really happy to see that gap closing faster than we thought,” he said. “In every single grade level the gap closed for reading.”

Erspamer credits much of this improvement to the school’s adoption of the Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction (EBLI) program. EBLI is a proprietary system of research-based literacy instructional practices embedded into effective, efficient strategies and activities that teach learners of all ages and ability levels to reach their highest potential in reading and spelling. That’s according to the EBLI literature distributed back in February 2013, when the school was seeing early results from the program.

The EBLI program is just one facet of a much larger effort to improve student performance, however. The middle school also has implemented daily, 30-minute class sessions in which students have access to all support staff, as well as general education teacher to “remediate and/or accelerate” in core areas of instruction.

What this boils down to is students who may be having trouble with a particular subject have a chance to focus intensely on that particular area without missing out on any regular classroom activities. The results of these efforts are being closely monitored by administrators; the practices that create improvements are expanded upon and those which do not are set aside.

According to Superintendent Kyle Hamlin, most of the feedback thus far has been positive.

“We want to make sure our staff knows we’re hearing positive things about them,” Hamlin said. “This is a living, breathing document that we’re figuring out as we go along. We want to make sure our students, whether on the low or high ends, are moving upward educationally.”

At the fourth grade level, the performance gap between the top and bottom 30 percent of students narrowed by 4.16 percent in math, 3.3 percent in reading and 7.6 percent in language.

For fifth-graders, the gap narrowed by 1.35 percent in math, 1.56 percent in reading and 1.06 percent in language.

For sixth grade students, the gap narrowed by 3.7 percent in reading. In math and language, however, that gap actually increased by 14.1 and 1.3 percents, respectively.

“We have some concerns about that,” said Erspamer, adding that steps are being taken to remedy the situation.

Similar statistics hold for seventh grade students, as well, with the gap narrowing by 1.9 percent in reading, and widening by 12.1 percent in math and 11.1 percent in language.

This does not mean, however, that overall scores are declining; only that the gap between the highest and lowest achieving students is in some cases widening.

“We’re trying to keep the 30 percent at the top climbing while at the same time brining up the bottom 30,” Erspamer said. “That is definitely what our goal is.”

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