On Thursday, September 17, 2015, the DJUSD School Board will hear staff’s recommendations on changes to the AIM program as well as feedback from the public. Staff has made four recommendations that will then return for board action on October 15. A recommendation to approve a proposed new leadership structure will return for board action October 1.
First, the DJUSD Administration recommends the continued use of the OLSAT (Otis-Lennon School Ability Test) for universal testing. They write, “Based on literature reviews and as a means to connect the proposed identification process to the existing one, we recommend continuing with OLSAT as a universal third grade identification test at the beginning of the year. In addition to providing a basis for comparison between the new assessment system and the old one, it is a highly recognized test in the field.”
However, they also recognize that “since the test has been shown to reflect a higher level of success for white and Asian students, it is essential for the district to include safeguards that identify underrepresented groups of students including English Learners, low income, Hispanic, and African American.”
As such, they recommend a pilot using the HOPE (Having Opportunities Promotes Excellence) scale. The HOPE Scale assessment “was designed to identify and serve high-potential students from low-income families.” The way it works is that classroom teachers “complete the HOPE scale for each of their students by answering eleven questions using a six point frequency response scale.”
The administration hopes that the future use of the HOPE would “mitigate for the inherent biases associated with other assessments.” Third grade teachers would use this as additional measure for the identification of AIM students. Right now they would use it as a pilot rather than a qualification factor for 2015-16 in order to track how it would align with other processes.
The district’s survey of other districts found that a qualification score ranges from 90-99 percentile in GATE programs throughout California. Administrative staff believes that raising or lowering the qualification score will have a direct effect on the projected number of students who qualify. Right now the qualification for AIM-identification is the 96th percentile.
Staff recommends raising the qualification score to 98th percentile.
They write, “The administration considered the effect that a higher qualification score will have on the AIM program size.”
Already they have looked at the impact of the elimination of private testing where “the administration projects that the approximate size of the AIM program would fall between 77 and 100 students with the elimination of private testing if the number of students tested remains constant.”
These projections are based on the elimination of private testing alone and do not account for changes in qualification scores.
Adding in the qualification score being raised to the 98th percentile, administrative staff believes “the range of self-contained requests will be between 63 and 73 students. These numbers suggest that the district would offer between two and three sections of self-contained classrooms.”
In addition to the HOPE scale, the district plans to use risk factors, and that “to screen for additional testing is critical to mitigate for the inherent biases that exist in each assessment.” They added that they recommend “that risk factors shall be used to determine additional assessments which will be administered to determine eligibility.”
The administration recommends that consideration must be given to students who exhibit the following factors:
- Economic: parent unemployed; low/single parent income; participation in free-reduced lunch programs
- Health: designated instructional services via Resource Specialist Program (RSP) such as learning disabilities, significant physical or mental health problems, etc.
- Primary language of parent and/or student is other than English; lack of proficiency or verbal fluency in English; limited home/school communication; part of underrepresented population.
- A wide range of scores on indicators of school success (teacher reports, grades, test results, standardized tests, etc.)
The administration sees a two-stage process. During the first stage of the process, “the administration strives to build a system that equalizes the weight of multiple tools to minimize over identification and under identification. All 3rd graders would take the OLSAT and students scoring 98th percentile or above will qualify for AIM.”
During the second stage of the process, “the AIM Assessment Team will review risk factors and determine what test would be appropriate for students who did not qualify on the OLSAT. Students without risk factors, but who scored in the standard error of measure on the OLSAT will be rescreened using either the CogAT or the Slosson. For students with risk factors related to language or culture, the TONI may be administered. For students with economic risk factors, the Naglieri may be administered. The AIM Assessment Team may choose to administer the WISC in special circumstances.”
Staff writes, “If the HOPE pilot is successful, it will be used with the alternative assessments listed above to determine AIM-identification.”
DJUSD also intends to “implement a targeted strategy to ensure that all students receive differentiated instruction. This shall be achieved through a two-step process of formulating a professional growth plan and implementing particular strategies for advanced learners.”
Staff writes with respect to differentiation strategies for advanced learners: “Differentiation for the advanced learner incorporates information regarding differentiated classroom practices, but may have more emphasis on providing differentiated instructional methods that integrate a democratic learning environment with substantive information across the curriculum in advanced content, process and product. Typically, advanced learners demonstrate interest-based intrinsic motivation with a capacity for understanding abstract concepts and the ability to transfer knowledge from one learning situation to another.”
Finally administration recommends the implementation of a new leadership model to appropriately address the needs of the AIM program in the district. Staff writes, “The process of research and analysis for this report provided an opportunity to look carefully at the evolving needs of the identification process and oversight of the AIM program. At present, the AIM Coordinator position is vacant. As the Board of Education considers approving an updated plan for the AIM identification process, the Superintendent will establish an appropriate leadership structure to support the recommendations in this report.”
Under the direction of the Associate Superintendent of Instructional Services, AIM program leadership will be led by the Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Learning, who will attain GATE certification.
That director would be responsible for parent communication, elementary and junior high placements, AIM staff management and the AIM Advisory committee.
The district is proposing hiring a .4 FTE AIM Differentiation Specialist who would replace the AIM coordinator. The support staff includes the, already implemented, addition of a new (.25 FTE) secretary.
The staff continues, “[T]he administration will create an AIM Assessment Team, comprised of the AIM Differentiation Specialist, an AIM teacher, a site principal, a psychologist, Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Learning, and Associate Superintendent of Instructional Services. The AIM Assessment Team will review relevant student data to determine additional assessment(s) in alignment with the DJUSD AIM identification process, in order to ensure that each student receives the most appropriate assessment.”
The Superintendent’s AIM Advisory Committee will continue to meet monthly at the regularly scheduled time, published on the district’s AIM website.
—David M. Greenwald reporting