Photo by Bulletin file photo
Madison Middle School
Photo by Martin Owen
Adams Middle School
Last year, only 59 percent of all Madison students were proficient (at grade level) in reading, according to the Nebraska State Assessment.
More alarmingly, only 36 percent of the sixth grade boys were proficient readers.
The scores at Madison were not much better in other subjects, either.
The school is in its third year of needing to improve to meet the basic state requirements, according to the annual "state report card" of schools.
The academic performance of Madison has come into sharp focus with the planned reconfiguration of grades and busing of students across to town for grades 6, 7 and 8.
In one way, the reconfiguration -- putting all sixth graders at Madison -- would ease requirements to reconfigure only Madison if it continues to fall below standards.
But Superintendent Marty Bassett said academics at Madison does not require a reconfiguration. He and a committee of supporters believe it would help all grades from 6-12.
According to state test results, slightly more than half (55%) of Madison students were proficient in math last spring when the state tests were given.
By comparison, proficiency at Adams Middle School was 77% in reading and 69% in math – from 18-14 percentage points higher than Madison.
Madison students did better in science and writing than they did in other subjects – 65% in science and 69% in writing, which was slightly below the state average in both subjects, and much closer to the scores at Adams of 71% and 76%.
There were also a couple other reasons to be encouraged by the results at Madison. Overall, Madison students made big improvements compared to the year before, boosting math and science scores by nearly 20 percent. Still, Madison has a long way to go to meet state standards, or do as well as their counterparts at Adams.
The school is now in its third year of "needing to improve" academics due to "less than adequate" scores on state tests.
Bassett said the school is continuing to develop a "corrective action plan" as required by the state. More time is set aside each day for teachers and counselors to intervene with students who are struggling. Notices have been sent to parents, suggesting ways they can help, explaining their options to transfer students to other schools, and providing a list of supplemental education providers.
The school is receiving more federal money to increase and improve programs, and to pay the cost of transporting students who choose to go to another school, under the state and federal requirements.
To get off the list of schools that need improvement, Madison must show marked improvement for two straight years. If they cannot, a school restructuring plan will be required in the fifth year, including extensive staff changes.
However, state and federal aid will not be reduced, Bassett said.
“There simply is not a financial penalty,” Bassett told the Bulletin.
Bassett also said that two schools in Omaha and Lincoln have already hit the required “year five restructuring,” and simply changed their schedules somewhat and replaced their principals.
“We have a new principal at Madison this year,” Bassett said, referring to the resignation of Tom Coviello and the hiring of Dan McMurty, and indicating that change is already done.
Bassett also said the middle schools would not have to be reconfigured with all sixth graders in Madison to satisfy state requirements to improve academics.
“There are a number of different options,” he said, including the aforementioned restructuring of the staff and schedule at Madison.