In concurrence with receiving middling ratings from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, measures for improving student achievement in the Marshall School District are starting to take shape behind the scenes.

Partnerships in Comprehensive Literacy, a school reform program of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, will serve as a model for MSD’s future growth, Instruction Director Randy Bartels said at a special Dec. 4 meeting of the Marshall School Board Committee of the Whole.

Bartels joined MSD in the summer and is guiding efforts to systematically improve literacy and reading achievement throughout the district.

“One of the decisions that came about early on, based on a lot of that information available, was that having a comprehensive model and a framework that we could all work from would really be beneficial,” he said.

The University of Arkansas-Little Rock model with help provide that framework as Marshall moves from a “readiness” phase into a “planning” phase. Staff from kindergarten through eighth grade have already viewed a preliminary presentation on what the literacy model encompasses, Bartels said.

“Anne Kubicki and Amy Darcangelo, our instructional coaches, are going through a training process this year to be facilitators and really guide this work, and so we’re trying to build capacity in our staff,” he said.

The literacy model is made up of 10 key features “based on evidence from best literacy practices, effective school reform, school-embedded professional development and research-based interventions,” according to the University of Arkansas-Little Rock website.

“Right now we’re in the planning stages of, ‘How are we going to carry out those 10 different features over a three to five year period of time?’” Bartels said. “Based on all of my experience and the work that I had done previously, the research that I know, this is the best of the best. It truly is a commitment, but we’re doing something bold here and we really want to move the needle on student achievement.”

Other committee action:

• The committee decided to change the district’s cold-weather policy to match the Madison Metropolitan School District. Though Marshall’s official policy has required closing at -35 degree wind chill, the district has historically followed Madison’s lead by closing at -30 degrees, District Administrator Dan Grady said.

• District policy concerning student conduct and expulsions will remain more loosely defined to allow faculty to exercise their judgment on incidents, rather than requiring the school board to have to weigh in on each expulsion request.

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