Area schools are among those taking part in a Web-based pilot program designed to boost standardized test scores, said Lois Myran, project director for the North Dakota Moving to Improve Learning for Everyone project and assistant director of professional development for the state department of public instruction.
North Dakota identified 99 performance indicators out of 166 performance indicators that it deems to be important and the Web site lists different steps that schools can identify to help them make progress. Each participating school identifies staff members responsible for meeting the goals.
Cindy Cook, principal at Sunnyside Elementary, one of the schools participating in the project, said steps listed include, under curriculum enhancement, such things as testing before and after the completion of an instructional unit.
Other headers on the list include items such as district support for school improvement, classroom instruction, and school community. Staff members meet regularly to discuss the project. The program enables the schools to keep track of data and who is doing what. Myran said the program is research-based and the Web site includes information on why research says a particular strategy is best teaching practice if teachers and administrators question it.
Participating in the project also cuts down on the paperwork Cook is required to do, since the program will meet many of DPI's requirements.
NDMILE is based on a program called Indistar, which according to its Web site, was developed in Virginia in 2007 and was later adapted by additional school districts in other states. The program is customized depending on the needs of individual institutions. The schools that used the program saw an increase in student test scores in reading and mathematics.
Cook said she thinks the project should help improve school performance here as well. All of the schools selected for the pilot program are ones that have been identified for program improvement or have failed to make adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. That means schools where test scores of students overall or students in a specific targeted group have not improved enough from year to year. Myran said schools also were selected based on the leadership ability of the building principals.
Area schools chosen for the pilot project include Sunnyside, Roosevelt and Washington Elementaries and Erik Ramstad and Jim Hill Middle Schools; Dunseith, St. John, Nedrose, Williston, New School District No. 8 in Williston, and Crosby. Educators from 40 schools across the state attended a training session in February and have just started utilizing the program. Myran said there is no cost to the individual districts for the program.