Board Student Achievement Committee Minutes – August 5, 2019

District Mission: The Sioux City Community School District exists to educate students to believe in their talents and skills, achieve academic excellence, and succeed in reaching their potential.

Facilitator: Dr. Kim Buryanek

The Board Student Achievement Committee (SAC) met on Monday, August 5, 2019, in the
Educational Service Center Board Room.

Committee Members Present: Dr. Paul Gausman, Dr. Kim Buryanek, Mrs. Mickey Nelson, Mrs.
Jackie Warnstadt and Mr. Ron Colling

Guests Present: Dr. Brian Burnight, Director of Elementary Education and Dr. Mandi Bradford
Assistant Principal, Irving Elementary

Title I

Dr. Brian Burnight shared information about Title I funding, which includes recent changes
mandated at the State and Federal level, updates on community and school support, and budget
projections for FY2021. Title I relates to Focus 2022 Goal 1: Provide Relevant, Rigorous and
Innovative Academics.

Title I funds are designated to provide financial assistance to educational agencies and schools with high percentages of children from low-income families to ensure children are provided resources to meet academic standards. The recent changes at the State and Federal level will result in less Title I funding for the District, approximately 7.8% less for FY2021, in addition to fewer carryover funds. Based on census data the Federal government has determined the state of Iowa has fewer students in poverty than other states, ultimately resulting in less funding to allocate to districts across the state. Dr. Paul Gausman explained the recent changes resulting in less Title I funding will have a substantial impact on education in the state of Iowa, mainly because poverty levels in Iowa are not improving. The lack of notification for this change has provided challenges for SCCSD and many districts across the State, including our fellow UEN districts.

Currently, there are ten elementary schools and two middle schools in the District that qualify for
Title I funding. The newest additions are Morningside Elementary, North Middle School, and West
Middle School. Additionally the District’s Title I funds also support Bishop Heelan Catholic
Schools, St. Paul Lutheran School, Boys and Girls Home and Family Services, and Jackson
Recovery. The Crittenton Center and Woodbury County Juvenile Detention Center now receive
support from the AEA.

The District has absorbed the effects of adding two middle schools and an elementary school last
year through staff movement to new positions and the designation of professional development
costs to a new source of funding. In order to accommodate for the recent reduction of Title I
funding, the District has proposed eliminating elementary summer school, with the exception of
summer school for ESL students. The dollars typically used to pay for elementary summer school
come from the Early Literacy Implementation (ELI) fund, a fund with fewer restrictions than Title I.
Those funds will now be used to pay for the LEXIA reading software that comes highly regarded by
principals, teachers, and students. The shifting of funds along with the elimination of summer
school will aid in retaining staff. Additionally, Iowa Reading Research Center analyzed FAST and
Iowa Assessment reading data for summer school students and compared it to students who did not attend summer school. The research shows the cohorts studied did not have significant gains in reading after attending summer school compared to those who did not attend summer school.

Another program supported by Title I funding is the Ready! For K program, implemented to
encourage parent engagement through reading to Pre K students. Participation in the program has
doubled since it was first implemented. The parent engagement piece of Title I funding is one of
the required expenditures set by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Dr. Paul Gausman shared with the committee discussions that occurred at the most recent UEN meeting about how districts are working to manage the massive change through communication with the State. Many districts are beginning the work of exploring new pathways for funding.

The Title I update will be presented at an upcoming Board meeting.

Attendance Specialists

Dr. Kim Buryanek and Dr. Mandi Bradford presented information on research and analysis
regarding chronic absenteeism, focusing on elementary schools in the District. Managing chronic
absenteeism has proven to be a challenge and the District is making progress through action
research recently conducted. Chronically absent students are defined as students who miss 10% of the school year. When a student is absent for any reason other than a school-sponsored activity,
they are considered absent, unexcused, or excused.

The District started this process by identifying which elementary schools had the highest percentage of students categorized as chronically absent. In 2015-16, the District hired two attendance specialists at Liberty Elementary and Irving Elementary. The next year, the District hired three more attendance specialists for Leeds Elementary, Unity Elementary, and Hunt Elementary. Positions are funded through a combination of grants, special education funding, DCAT, and AtRisk funding.

The work of the attendance specialists involves building relationships with chronically absent
students. The students and families work with the attendance specialist on eliminating barriers for
attendance, such as finding reliable transportation. Data validates when students attend school,
student achievement moves in a positive direction. Additionally, attendance specialists use an
incentive program for students who improve their attendance.

One of the breakthroughs of this research is the enhanced ability to identify which students will be
chronically absent from year to year. The District discovered a substantial percentage of students
who are chronically absent in one year, are not chronically absent the following year, which makes
it difficult to pinpoint which students to work within a new year. A student who has a history of
good attendance may have a sequence of events stack up, such as vacation and back-to-back
illnesses that push them into the chronically absent category. The next year, the student will be
back on track with good attendance. Dr. Kim Buryanek shared that after reviewing data from 2017-
18, they discovered 52% of students who missed at least two days of school in the first month were
identified as chronically absent at the end of the year. As a result of this finding, attendance
specialists now add students to their caseload after the first month of school rather than solely
relying on data from the end of the previous year. Technology has also assisted in the process by
creating reports to track students who transfer from school to school.

As part of the research, attendance specialists also studied and developed profiles of students who have a history of chronic absenteeism, the profile was for the student as a kindergarten student. Many of the students had the following characteristics: they live in single-parent households, they quality for free or reduced lunch and someone is home during the day. Attendance specialists have begun reviewing characteristics of the newest kindergarten class and are working to identify and establish a rapport with students and families who might trend towards chronic absenteeism. If strong attendance habits can be established in kindergarten, it will have a positive impact on student achievement.

The work of the attendance specialists has had a positive impact in regard to the number of absences recorded for chronically absent students. Most students still meet the chronically absent definition even though they have improved their attendance. Findings from research such as this give the District new methods to not only decrease the number of days absent but also to decrease the percentage of students who are chronically absent.

The Attendance Specialist Action Research relates to Focus 2022 Goal 1: Provide Relevant,
Rigorous and Innovative Academics. The Attendance Specialist report will be revised to include
data regarding attendance and achievement, then shared with the Board through the Informational
Update.