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Study: Learning gap exists at Nisky schools

Closure of one middle school recommended for efficiencies, cost savings

Van Antwerp Middle School students walk into the building on the first day of the 2011-12 school year. A recent middle school study aims to improve achievement in classrooms and find efficiencies.

Van Antwerp Middle School students walk into the building on the first day of the 2011-12 school year. A recent middle school study aims to improve achievement in classrooms and find efficiencies.

— During the 2009-10 school year, the study found male students lagged behind females in 27 of 28 categories focusing on English, math, social studies, science and foreign language at the middle school level. Seventeen of those categories held a 10 percent difference in achievement. Also, students with disabilities, while a smaller group, have achievement gaps ranging from a low of 5.2 percentage point difference to a high of a 51.9 percentage point difference.

Achievement data from the 2010-11 school year showed a slightly rosier picture, with 13 of the 28 categories holding a double-digit gap in performance between the sexes. Students with disabilities last school year also had double-digit differences in 24 of 28 categories.

“It causes questions I would hope and it would cause people to ponder why is the gap so big at third grade, but gets smaller at fourth grade and is big again in fifth grade and smaller at sixth grade,” Fante said. “These are indicative of the trends and patterns in your system … these are some things that are beyond a middle school focus.”

To increase student achievement and shrink performance gaps, the researchers recommended implementing professional development tied to current research on “brain-based learning” and males for the most effective techniques. System performance goals are also recommended for both males and students with disabilities.

Closure of a school recommended

Smaller enrollment numbers at Iroquois and Van Antwerp Middle Schools led researchers to recommend looking into closing one of the existing schools to increase efficiencies and save money.

“This issue about small schools is one that you have … I heard again tonight about combination classrooms,” Fante said.

Five neighborhood elementary schools were also identified as having smaller class sizes, and researchers.

The study argued there could be additional opportunities to enhance education if students were shifted to one middle school. Rising costs and the state’s property tax cap are placing strains on school districts everywhere to rein in costs.

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