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Guest Commentary / Monroe School District

Student success shows schools on track

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By Nancy Truitt Pierce
It makes me sad that we have a small but vocal minority in this area that seem bent on taking facts out of context to paint the worst possible picture of our schools. I don't know what the motivation is, but when I saw the recent Letter to the Editor relating to the Math and Reading scores at the Monroe public schools I decided I needed to set the record straight. (March 17, "Test scores move in wrong direction.")
It has been 16 months since I was elected to the Monroe School Board. In that time I have discovered that our schools in Monroe are very good, with pockets of excellence, and a solid plan to get them all the way to great. There is still more work to be done, but I'm thrilled and relieved to discover how good they are.
The letter compared state test scores administered four years apart. The state tests are a great idea but have not been implemented effectively so the evidence they yield is of poor quality. To have a highly reliable test result, you need to closely align the curriculum you are using with the test the kids are taking. It takes schools an average of four years to implement a new curriculum. The state has changed the tests repeatedly making it challenging to achieve alignment and implement curriculum changes to fully support it. That makes the data pretty suspect which means these state test scores are not representative of our quality.
So, how do we know how we are doing and what are we doing to continue to improve?
A key indicator of success is how our kids do when they finish at Monroe High School and apply to colleges. I'm pleased to report that over 90 percent of our kids graduate compared to the state average of 78 percent.The class of 2011 and 2012 both had over $5 million in scholarship offers, we have four national merit commended scholars this year, and last year there were 13 Valedictorians. Our SAT average was above the state average, which was tied for highest in the country. Our graduates are heading off to prestigious colleges. We have one young man this year at Stanford on a full-ride scholarship and one of our young women is at MIT, one of the most rigorous technical schools in the world.
We track these and more metrics on our school website
It is true we have kids weak in some of the fundamentals. To deal with that, we have invested heavily in recent years in intervention services at middle school and in a two-class period math block for 9th graders which is clearly working. In the first semester this year 120 out of the 150 young people in that block class mastered Algebra! They now move on to Geometry.
The important questions are, "what wasn't working, what have we done about it, and what evidence do we have that the new plan is working." After a comprehensive review, I believe the plan implemented in the Monroe public schools is working very well and the success of our kids is evidence of that.
I also am delighted with some of the most positive attributes I've found in our schools over all. For instance, Monroe public schools has been seen as a leader for years in offering options for families. Back in the early part of the century, the school board decided that "One size does not fit all" and have worked with the superintendent and his team to build a rich array of options for our local families. The result is that our families have as many or more options for finding the right program for each of their unique and precious children than anywhere else in the state. In the past year, we added to that distinction by starting a dual language program at Frank Wagner Elementary and a Montessori program at Maltby Elementary. Both have been very well received and have waiting lists.
We also boast the largest parent partnership in the state and are heralded as one of the national leaders in partnering with parents. We have one of the "Schools of Innovation" as named by OSPI in 2012: they named only 22 schools last year with this designation (out of close to 3,000 schools) so that's an amazing honor for our Sky Valley Education Center.
Is there more work to do? Absolutely. But on almost every level, I have been pleased with what I have found. I think Dr. Hoover and his team are doing a good job. These hard working educators deserve our praise and our support, not misleading rants without context. Thank you for your support as we continue to improve!

Nancy Truitt Pierce is a member of the Monroe School Board, Director #2.

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