Township of Houghton-Portage teachers review MTSS program | News, Sports, Jobs

Teachers from Houghton-Portage Township Schools, including Traci Welch, Mollie Trewartha and Sara Rutz, give a presentation on the district’s Multi-Level Support Systems program at the district’s board meeting on Monday. (Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Faculty members presented the latest Multilevel Support Systems (MTSS) presentation at the Houghton-Portage Township Schools Council meeting on Monday.

The MTSS system is focused on promoting academic achievement and positive behaviors, said Traci Welch, MTSS team member and high school social studies teacher. The three-tier system is represented by a pyramid, with the students at the top needing the most support.

The district’s accomplishments have been recognized statewide. In January, the district team received a gold medal from the state MTSS committee.

Elementary staff use the Acadience Benchmark Tests, formerly known as DIBELS, for reading skills; middle school reading and math tests use FastBridge.

For behavior, staff review key behaviors entered into the school-wide information system. Major behaviors can consist of anything that results in a student being sent or reported to the office, as well as minor behaviors that are repeated frequently.

Students are beginning to recover from learning disruptions at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim is to have at least 80% of pupils at Level 1 – representing the universal education or classroom education that all pupils receive. In 2018-19, the last full school year before the pandemic, Acadience scores showed students had already entered the year at the baseline of 80%, rising to 87% in May, said Sara Rutz, teacher computer science at Houghton Elementary School.

This figure dropped to 71% in the fall of 2020, returning to 80% by the end of the year. This school year started at 73% in the fall, reaching 79% in May.

Some students still have to complete tests, which could push scores up to 80%, Rutz said. This year was also the first in which Young Five students were included in the elementary results.

Boxes are already arriving at elementary school for the school’s new reading series, which students will begin using in the fall.

“It’s going to give our grade levels a chance to regroup, to refocus, to make sure that whatever hasn’t been as tight as it should be gets back together as we embark on a new reading series next year”, Rutz said.

“We are going in the right direction” she says. “We’re not quite there yet.”

Behaviorally, the students did well, Rutz said. The percentage of students with no or only one office recommendation was 96.2% in 2021-22, compared to 95.61% in 2018-2019.

A pilot project is a quiet room for important switches. During recess, students would go to a teacher’s room to fill out sheets reflecting their behavior and discuss a restoration process with a teacher.

Middle school students use FastBridge, a computer-based test, for math and reading. The tests are adaptive, increasing the difficulty when students perform well.

This year, the percentage of students at or above the benchmark in reading increased throughout the school year for all three grade levels, ending at 92% in sixth grade, 85% in seventh and 79% in eighth. In mathematics, the percentage improved in sixth and seventh grade while remaining level for eighth grade.

Behavior levels remained high throughout. The percentage of students without a reference or with a reference was between 96% and 99% for all points in the first three quarters of the last four years (Spring 2020, when all schools were virtual, was ignored).

The number of participants remained high in 2020-21 due to the relaxation of what could be counted. This year, those numbers have dropped. Largely because of COVID and quarantines, only 48% of second-term students attended at least 90% of the time, according to college math teacher Mollie Trewartha. This percentage rebounded to 79% of students in the third term.

Academic performance remained strong even in the second term, Trewartha said. She attributed this to improved student access to the program through Google Classroom, which allows sick students to see what their class did that day or watch a video related to the topic.

“Even my own children have been absent a lot more than I would have liked this school year, but we continue to move forward, to make progress,” she says.

Similar attendance issues were seen in high school, said resource room teacher Anna Bradfish. In the third quarter, 81% of high school students were on track with their foundation courses, compared to 80% three years ago. The 90% of students on track with GPA was also up from 86% in 2018-19.

For 2022-2023, teachers are exploring strategies for teaching children to read for information. One of the reading comprehension methods will be SQ3R: poll, question, reading, recitation and review.

Reading comprehension has dropped among students, which several teachers have noticed. COVID played a part, but they thought it may have been due to the increasing use of technology and the move away from longer reading.

“While we’re trying to get them all the information and get them, like kind of a grip on their homework that they have to pass, we’re not solving their lifelong problem, which is that if you can’t read , how are you going to access information when you don’t have a teacher trying to help you?” said Bradfish.

The problem is not specific to Houghton, Welch said. When she started teaching 25 years ago, she says, she gave students homework to read on their own. She no longer feels comfortable doing so.

“I feel like I almost always have to take the reading given out to everyone and read it with them, break it down piece by piece, ask them questions, go through it,” she says.

Trewartha said teachers were considering adapting their teaching in areas such as science, history or math to teach more reading skills.

In other actions, the council:

— Heard by Superintendent Anders Hill that the high school ranks 34th in the state out of approximately 1,150 in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. It is the only school in the top 100 of the Upper Peninsula. The district also had the highest ranked elementary school in UP

– Approved the Copper Country Middle School District’s proposed budget for 2022-23.

– Scheduled a public hearing to present the 2022-23 district budget at 5:45 p.m. on June 20.

– Approved the hiring of Brian Sikkenga as a college physical education teacher and college football assistant coach. Hill said the hiring was initially based on the teaching position.

– Had the first reading of NEOLA policy updates and Michigan Freedom of Information Act procedures and guidelines. The Board of Directors will vote on them at its June meeting.

– Entered into executive session for negotiations. No action was taken when the council returned to open session.

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