The desire to provide a Catholic education for the children of Des Moines became a reality with St. Ambrose School which opened in 1856 with an enrollment of 307 students. At that time, there was only one diocese in the newly formed state of Iowa; the Diocese of Dubuque, which encompassed the entire state. A second school, St. Michael's, was opened in 1881, and in 1907 changed its name to Visitation School. After the formation of the Diocese of Des Moines in 1911, six new elementary schools were built between 1912 and 1926. During the depression and war years, new building came to a halt but the existing schools prospered. The post war baby boom provided the need for the addition of four new elementary schools and in 1949 St. Joseph School was built.
St. Joseph's School is located in an eastern suburb of Des Moines. Our student population is predominantly middle to lower socio-economic, with approximately 30 % of our students eligible for free and reduced lunch. We are a population of ethnic diversity, with students from many different ethnic backgrounds that bring a wonderful cultural dimension to our school. We have seventeen licensed teachers and serve 275 students in our prekindergarten through eighth grade programs.
The mission of our school has remained essentially the same since it began in 1949; to provide a quality education to our students, to educate the whole child, educationally, emotionally, and spiritually. We hope to prepare our students to be successful in a global economy, to understand and embrace the need for service to others, and to demonstrate higher level thinking skills. Students today, as then, are instructed in the "basics"-reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. Religion classes are conducted daily, all students attend a weekly school mass, and our parish priest, deacon, and religious director visit the classrooms on a rotating weekly basis. Rounding our curriculum are art, music, physical education, computer study, and foreign language. Special classes for TAG students are conducted weekly. The media center is open to large group and individual students daily. Each of our classrooms is equipped with Smart Board technology.
With the assistance of our parents, our teachers, our parish community, and our community at large, we have been able to make a difference in the lives of our students. As the school administrator, I have been very appreciative of the support I have received from all of our stakeholders. Our students are performing at a very high levels academically, we initiate several projects throughout the school year to reach out to those in need; clothing drives, food drives, funding for the victims of natural disasters, and for animals at the Animal Rescue League.
When parents and school work together, great things happen. At St. Joseph's School, it is evident that the parents care about their children's education for their involvement at all grade levels is very high. An active Home and School Association provided opportunities for all families throughout the year to help raise funds for the needs of the school. Our Annual Hawk Hike is a family centered activity held in the fall, and a Carnival is held in the spring. The major focus of the Home & School Association this year is the new playground which will allow our students to play in an area closer to the school.
St. Joseph's Catholic School uses the Iowa Test of Basic Skills as an accountability and improvement measure at the local level. These tests are also used throughout the Diocese. We report achievement test results in the academic areas of reading, math in grade 4, and in the areas of reading, math and science in grade 8. Even though these are the grades reported, all students in grades 3-8 take the ITBS as a way of monitoring academic growth.
Students at St. Joseph's School post generally high test scores. Testing experts stress that this information is best used to identify areas of strengths and weakness for individual students and classes, and to measure academic growth. Because of the way the test is designed, and the demographic factors that influence results, standardized test scores alone are not a reliable method for comparing teachers, schools, or districts. However, this information is useful to us in planning curriculum, developing school improvement plans, planning professional development and making instructional decisions. We focus upon improvement goals, including reducing the number of students who fall below the 40th percentile of the national percentile rank with a goal of reducing that number. In addition to the ITBS, during the 2008-2009 school years, three additional assessments were utilized to measure academic growth in the areas of math, science and reading for students in grades 4, 6 and 8. These assessments, along with the achievement levels, are the Exemplars which is used in math in grade 6, SCASS which is utilized on science in grade 8 and the Constructed Response Survey in reading in grade 4.
Grade Reading Language Math *Core Social Studies Science Composite
The chart below illustrates the scores for our students on our most recent Iowa Test of Basic Skills tests in October of 2008.
Core total includes scores of vocabulary, reading comprehension, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, usage and expression, math concepts and estimation, and Data Interpretation. The composite score is an average of all scores from each student in the grade in all test areas. The highest attainable score is a 99. The percentage (number) means that students in that grade scored higher than that percentage nationally. For example, students in grade 3 scored higher than 93 % of students nationally in reading. Our students are performing at very high academic levels.
Our goal was to increase the percentage of fourth grade students to the proficient or higher range as measured by the Iowa Test of Basic Skills Reading Comprehension part of the assessment compared to their third grade scores. Third grade scores indicated that 75% of students were at the proficient or proficient and above range. This year our scores indicated that 97% of our students scored in the proficient and proficient and above range. A second measurement was used in fourth grade to measure reading comprehension. The chart below illustrates the percentage and number of students performing at each level.
Results of Constructed Response Survey (Reading Comprehension)
Grade 4 SCASS Novice Apprentice Practitioner Expert
% at each level 0 0 48 52
# at each level 0 0 15 16
Our goal was to increase the percentage of students in the proficient and proficient and above range in fourth grade in the Mathematics assessment of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills as compared to their third grade scores. Third grade scores indicated that 80% were proficient. Fourth grade scores indicated that 87% of students scored in the proficient and proficient and above range of the ITBS mathematics assessment. A second measure used for mathematics to assess proficiency is the Exemplars. The chart below indicated the number of students and proficiency levels.
Results of Exemplar Assessment (Mathematics)
Grade 4 SCASS Novice Apprentice Practitioner Expert
% at each level 0 10 45 45
# at each level 0 3 14 14
The annual goal in the academic area of Science was to increase the percentage of eighth students performing in the proficient and proficient and above range as measured by the Iowa Test of Basic Skills Science sub-test. Seventh grade scores were 82% proficiency. This year 96% of our students scored in the proficient and proficient and above range. A second assessment, SCASS, is administered to our eighth grade students to measure proficiency in the content area of Science. The following chart illustrates the percentage and number of students at each proficiency level.
Results of SCASS assessment (Science)
Grade 8 SCASS Novice Apprentice Practitioner Expert
% at each level 0 16 38 46
# at each level 0 4 9 11
Our academic goals were met in the content areas of reading, mathematics and science. The data indicates that our students are demonstrating academic growth from one year to the next. In addition, they are performing at higher levels than their peers at a national and state level.