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Closing Achievement Gaps Becomes A Priority For LUHS

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MINOCQUA – Public schools in Wisconsin, including Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua, are being asked to cut the “achievement gap” for various student subgroups in half within six years.

District Administrator/Director of Curriculum Rob Way outlined to the school board Monday what lies ahead for administration and staff under the state Department of Public Instruction’s new directive. The state agency has set standards for schools to ensure all students – regardless of race, income, and ability – graduate from high school ready for college and careers. “The state school superintendent is saying in six years we are going to cut achievement gaps in three areas: white students and non-white students; students with educational disabilities and those without disabilities; and students with economic disadvantages and students without economic disadvantages,” Way said.

Many schools, again Lakeland included, have groups of students who lag their mainstream peers in meeting proficiency in English language arts (ELA) and math as measured by ACT test scores. At Lakeland, those achievement gaps are for the Native American population, which has not narrowed for ELA. (However, that population’s high school graduation rate has soared in recent years.) Way noted that the gaps for ELA and math have both closed somewhat for socio-economic status. But the gaps for disability status has widen here for both ELA and math. He did note that the last report card from the state showed Lakeland was above the state average in ELA and math, having the second highest composite score overall out of 23 high schools in the CESA district. “There are things we have to go after,” he allowed, including those achievement gaps. There will be added pressure as federal reports cards are also expected this coming year. They too will call for closing achievement gaps.

Board member and former teacher Barb Peck urged administration to keep the board informed on a regular basis on the progress of achieving those “very measureable, very specific” goals. As part of that undertaking, the board that night approved the hiring of a “math interventionist,” who will be tasked with improving math understanding by underachieving students. In that new role, Michael Snyder brings 22 years of teaching experience to Lakeland, currently as math teacher and junior class dean at UW-Milwaukee. He is a graduate of Lakeland. He will be paid $70,000 a year. “We have got a great math teacher coming in,” said board member Jon Berg, another former teacher. We’re putting some resources where it needs to be. So let’s establish some goals.”

Way, recently named district administrator, agreed, saying, “It’s a whole team effort” to achieve those goals. Other departments, such as Student Services, will have a role in closing achievement gaps. He and a few other administration members will be traveling to Madison for a June conference to learn more about ways to close those gaps.

The board is scheduled in July to begin developing goals for next year.

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