Department of Education Review 2011

Department of Education Review 2011

Attached is the report of findings for the Comprehensive School Improvement Site Visit conducted at St.
Joseph Catholic School on October 18-19, 2011. The report is based upon a variety of interviews
conducted with district staff and stakeholder groups during the indicated dates, and review of documents
submitted to the Department and on-site.

The site visit was designed to assess the district’s progress with its Comprehensive School Improvement
Plan (CSIP), provide a general assessment of educational practices within the district, make
recommendations for improvement, and determine compliance with state accreditation standards and
applicable federal program requirements.

Based on the findings from the comprehensive site visit, St. Joseph Catholic School maintains State of
Iowa accreditation. No non-compliance issues were noted and no corrective action plan is required.

The report reflects consensus of the following team members:

Department of Education Representative:

Holly Barnes, School Improvement Consultant

Heartland Area Education Agency Representatives:

Leanne Chapman-Thill, Consultant

Mike Szymczuk, Consultant

Local Education Agency Representative:

Joannie Sangler, Teacher, Newton CSD

Des Moines Diocese Representative:

Denise Mulcahy, Director of Teaching and Learning

It is our hope this report will provide guidance to enhance student achievement in the school and support
continuing conversations among staff and community members about the local education system, how
and what students are learning, and how more students can learn at higher levels.

As part of St. Joseph Catholic School’s continuous improvement process, the school must review its
current CSIP and provide revisions as needed. Revisions should be based on the school’s needs
assessments (including the attached report), student achievement data, stakeholder input, and
established priorities. Recertification of the CSIP must be completed by September 15, 2012. Directions
for revision and submission of the CSIP can be found at:

The visiting team again extends its gratitude to you and the St. Joseph Catholic School staff and patrons
in preparing for and showing courtesy during the visit. Thank you for your time and cooperation.


School Improvement Consultant

Bureau of Accreditation and Improvement Services

Iowa Department of Education

Del Hoover, Deputy Administrator

Bureau of Accreditation and Improvement Services

Iowa Department of Education

cc: Site Visit Team Members

School Board President

Iowa Department of Education Official File

AEA Office

Comprehensive Site Visit

Iowa Department of Education

St. Joseph Catholic School

Des Moines, IA

Team Findings

October 18-19, 2011

Iowa Department of Education

Grimes State Office Building

400 E. 14th St

Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0146

Vision, Mission, and Goals

In an improving district/school, the vision, mission, and goals are clearly communicated
in the school and community. Stakeholders understand and share a commitment to the
district/school expectations, goals, priorities, assessment procedures, and
accountability. The vision guides allocations of time and resources. Evidence includes,
but is not limited to, the following:

Clearly articulated mission is established collaboratively with stakeholder groups
representing the diversity of the community.

Vision, mission, and goals are communicated throughout the system and

The vision and mission of the district/school guide teaching and learning.

Every five years, the comprehensive needs assessment process, with input from
stakeholders, is used to review and revise the beliefs, mission, and/or vision; major
educational needs; and student learning goals.

Academic and academic-related data are analyzed and used to determine prioritized

Goals guide assessment of student achievement, district/school effectiveness, and
the allocation of time and resources.

The vision, mission, and goals support values of respecting and valuing diversity.

Noted Strengths:

1. The diocesan mission states “the mission of the catholic schools of the Diocese
of Des Moines is to provide meaningful educational experiences for
children/adolescents in an environment integrated by gospel values which
nurtures faith, community, prayer and service.” Teachers, the principal, and the
board shared they educate the whole child -- spiritually, academically, and
emotionally. An example of the operationalization of the mission statement is
differentiation in instruction is widely used in reading and growing in the area of
math to meet the varying needs of students.

2. The school has recently conducted a needs assessment with the community.
This needs assessment covered multiple areas including:

Religious Formation

Building and Grounds


Academic Programs

Extra-curricular activities


Food service/Transportation

Guidance and Counseling


Professional and Support Staff

Student Assessment/Program Reporting

Student Discipline and Responsibility

Dress Code

Emergency Procedures

This needs assessment provided stakeholders with the opportunity to share
open-ended responses. The principal shared this needs assessment will be
used to set goals and for future planning.

Recommendations for Improvement:

3. St. Joseph Catholic School could benefit from planning for the entry of new
members to the School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) as some
existing members were unclear about their role and responsibilities as a member
of the SIAC. The school is encouraged to consider the following:

Seeking balanced representation among administration, teachers,
parents, students, and the community, giving consideration to ethnic
diversity, gender, socioeconomic, and disability

Providing an orientation for new members and identifying mentors for new
members to initiate them into the activities of the committee

Defining the purpose of the committee in considering the educational
needs of students and supporting the committee in fulfilling its required
purpose as defined in Iowa Code. The required functions of a school SIAC
includes the following: making recommendations to the school board
regarding progress achieved with annual improvement goals for state
indicators that address reading, mathematics, and science; reporting
progress achieved with other locally determined core indicators; making
recommendations for annual improvement goals for the state indicators
that address reading, mathematics, and science achievement; and making
recommendations about the harassment or bullying prevention goals,
programs, training and other initiatives

Providing an historical perspective of the committee’s work, a vocabulary
list of frequently used terms, and training in data analysis basics

Reviewing and analyzing multiple sources of data, both academic and
non-academic, that defines student achievement needs and the factors
influencing student achievement.

Documenting SIAC meeting and conversations. Documentation should
include member lists, data reviewed and related recommendations,
agendas, minutes, schedules, actions, and a clear process for reporting to
the board

Sending meeting minutes to members and communicate the minutes with
the broader school community

Posting minutes on the website for all stakeholders to view

Periodically celebrating committee accomplishments

Recognizing member for contributions to the committee as they leave.


In an improving district/school, leaders communicate a shared sense of purpose and
understanding of the district/school’s values. Leaders have a visible presence, provide
resources and ensure two-way communication between the educational system and
stakeholders. Leaders provide encouragement, recognition, and support for improving
student learning and staff performance. Leadership is committed, persistent, proactive,
and distributed throughout the system. Evidence includes, but is not limited to, the

Policies and procedures are established to effectively support district/school

The school board and district/school administrators implement an evaluation system
that provides for the professional growth of all personnel.

Policies and practices are implemented to reduce and eliminate discrimination and
harassment and to reflect, respect, and celebrate diversity.

The role and responsibility of administrative leaders is supported, respected, and

A clearly defined system and expectations are established for the collection,
analysis, and use of data regarding student achievement and progress with the
Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (CSIP).

The capacity of staff, students, and parents to contribute and lead is built and

Opportunities for participation are provided for input, feedback, and ownership for
student and system success among staff, students, parents, and community.

Equity in access to learning opportunities and compliance with local, state, and
federal legislation is ensured.

Leaders at all levels understand and manage the change process.

Noted Strengths:

4. Teachers, students, and parents reported students are given opportunities to
build and practice leadership. Activities that allow students leadership
opportunities are:

Spring Musical



Student Council

Junior National Honor Society

Buddy Program

Service Projects

Choir, Bell Choir

Mass ministry

5. The board reported the principal is an effective instructional leader who leads the
school's journey in matching instruction to student's individual needs. In addition,
the board shared she is a life-long learner and continually uses both qualitative and quantitative data to drive instruction and leadership. For example, she saw and addressed the need to improve continued low reading achievement. This 

resulted in a diagnostic reading strategy program. She has been the recipient of
national leadership awards. All stakeholder groups shared appreciation of her

6. Teacher and student interview groups shared that the school added extra-
curricular activities (i.e. - Chess Club, Art Club, Zoo Team) to enhance the
educational experience at St. Josephs. These requests came from students and

7. Teachers and students reported the principal is highly visible in classrooms and
school/community functions. Her open-door policy creates the positive culture in
the building/community. She provides leadership opportunities for staff in terms
of committees, coaching, faith formation, student organizations, and buddy
classes. Teachers shared the principal provides effective feedback after
classroom observations that help teachers grow. She gives ideas and
suggestions or provides experts in the area of need.

Recommendations for Improvement:

8. Various groups spoke of communication as a strength; however, also mentioned
the need for a website that is updated and user friendly. Various stakeholders
reported there are plans for updating the website. Consider how the school
might use this opportunity as a way to include information that can also serve as
a marketing tool. For instance, inclusion of achievement data will provide current
parents as well as prospective parents with information about how the school is
progressing in its educational mission. As teachers begin to update their
classroom websites, current parents receive another piece of information about
their child’s education and prospective parents get a glimpse of the educational
program at St. Joseph.

Collaborative Relationships

In an improving district/school, stakeholders understand and support the mission and
goals of the district/school and have meaningful roles in the decision-making process.
Collaboration results from a culture of participation, responsibility, and ownership
among stakeholders from diverse community groups. Educators in the system develop
and nurture a professional culture and collaborative relationships marked by mutual
respect and trust inside and outside of the organization. The system works together with
balance between district direction and school autonomy. Evidence includes, but is not
limited to, the following:

Instructional staff is provided opportunities for interaction to focus on professional

Instructional staff constructively analyzes and critiques practices and procedures
including content, instruction, and assessment.

Instructional staff follows established procedures to resolve professional conflicts,
solve problems, share information about students, and communicate student
information to parents.

Processes and procedures that invite and respect stakeholder input, support, and
interaction are implemented by the district/school.

Parents are involved as partners in the educational process.

Positive alliances among school staff, students, parents, and diverse community
groups are created and nurtured.

Noted Strengths:

9. St. Joseph has strived to establish collaborative relationships with community
partners that enhance the learning for the students. Examples of these
community partners are:

Des Moines Public Schools (preschool, Individualized Educational
Program (IEP) needs)

House of Mercy

Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines

Prairie Meadows

Heartland Area Education Agency (AEA)


Local Nursing Homes

Des Moines Register

10. The school has also established partnerships with the Diocese of Des Moines.

Examples of these diocesan partnerships are:

Mirror (newspaper for the Diocese of Des Moines)

Diocese of Des Moines Schools’ Office

Diocesan Catholic school principals

Dowling Catholic High School

Recommendations for Improvement:

11. None noted.

Learning Environment

In an improving district/school, the school environment is conducive to teaching and
learning. The environment is safe, orderly, purposeful, and free from threat of physical,
social, and emotional harm. Teachers are familiar with students’ cultures and know how
to work effectively in a multi-cultural setting. Students are guided to think critically about
learning and have opportunities to apply learning to real world situations. Classrooms
are integrated with diverse learners (i.e., gender, race, special needs, at-risk, gifted).
Evidence includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Rules and procedures for behavior and consequences are clearly communicated
and consistently administered.

School facilities are physically accessible and school routines enhance student

Materials, resources, technology, programs, and activities reflecting diversity are
available to all students.

The district/school provides a clean, inviting, welcoming environment.

A clearly understood crisis management plan is established, communicated, and
implemented when necessary.

Teaching and learning are protected from external disturbances and internal

The district/school reflects the contributions and perspectives of diverse groups and
preserves the cultural dignity of staff, students, and parents.

Noted Strengths:

12. Parents and teachers reported one of the greatest strengths of the school is the
family atmosphere. Parents reported the teachers are available to them and their
children should they need assistance. Parents stated the people at the school
care about their children and serve them to help them grow. The principal
promotes a positive school-wide environment by promoting the following: building
trust with staff through listening carefully; affirming the great things teachers are
doing; and covering classrooms for teachers for needed breaks. It is evident that
the principal and teachers have built collaborative relationships with students,
staff and other stakeholders.

13. Multiple interview groups articulated an appreciation of learning activities that
actively engage them in learning. For instance, students and board related how
the Full Option Science System (FOSS) kits used in Science class are well
organized and allow them to participate in labs that help them better understand
science content. Students, teachers, and board members stated the new math
series also allows students to practice skills and chart their own progress so they
can see growth over time. Students said they have learned how to use their
textbooks as a resource to assist them in learning. Students and parents

reported classes are focused on study skills such as highlighting, organization,
and time management are helpful to them when completing long term projects
and other assignments.

14. Parents reported the principal and faculty strive to meet the diverse learning
needs of all students. Parents stated the faculty attempt to see each student as
an individual and seek techniques that will help students progress. Examples
were shared of teachers assisting students who are in need of enrichment as
well as students who need additional assistance. Parents reported teachers
make time for students before and after school and help students not only learn
content, but also learn how to study to give them skills that benefit them in high
school and beyond.

15. Teachers and parents reported the security system is new and all doors are now
locked. Everyone enters through the front door. Many interviewees reported the
principal and teachers walk through and around the school to ensure safety.
Head counts occur before and after recess and on all fieldtrips. Emergency
procedures are in place in the school.

16. Teachers and parents believe bullying is addressed in an efficient manner. The
school is the second year of implementing Positive Behavior Intervention Support
(PBIS). Common definitions and procedures for behavior have been adopted

17. A group of St. Joseph alums started a Face Book page as an avenue for
graduates to communicate with each other. In addition, a Kindergarten potluck is
being planned to bring parents together, build relationships, and connect with the

18. Multiple interview groups cited many technology and curriculum tools which are
available to enhance their learning. Examples included:

Computer lab


Neo 2 Writer

SMART boards

FOSS kits

New Saxon math books

Recommendations for Improvement:

19. Students reported positive aspects of the “house” structure that is in place in the
middle school. Students also reported a desire make changes in the house
assignments each year. Since this is the second year for the house structure at
the middle school, consider how the school staff will evaluate this program.
Consider the following questions:

What were the goals of putting the house structure into practice?

Have those goals been met? If so, what data shows the goals have been
met? If not, why not?

In what ways might the “Affective Domain” information from the ACRE test be
used to determine success?

How might the students be surveyed to gain their prospective about this
system and any changes that might need to take place?

Curriculum and Instruction

In an improving school, curriculum challenges each student to excel, reflects a
commitment to equity, and demonstrates an appreciation of diversity. There is an
emphasis on principles of high quality instruction, clear expectations for what is taught,
and high expectations for student achievement. Educators have a common
understanding of quality teaching and learning. Instruction is designed to accommodate
a wide range of learners within the classroom. Teachers have knowledge and skills
need to effectively implement characteristics of effective instruction. The staff accepts
responsibility for the students’ learning of the essential curriculum (e.g., Iowa Core
Curriculum). Instructional time is allocated to support student learning. Evidence
includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Educators implement effective instructional practices for each and every student.

School and classroom tasks and activities are inherently engaging, relevant, and
lead to applying knowledge to authentic tasks.

Content, instruction, assessments, and policy are aligned.

A shared vision of effective instruction is held by all instructional staff.

Curriculum and instruction reflect contributions from diverse racial, ethnic, and
personal backgrounds.

Students are provided opportunity and time to learn.

Teachers are provided with an instructional framework that employs research-based
strategies for use with diverse learner characteristics.

Instructional decisions utilize a process of collecting, analyzing, and summarizing

Noted Strengths:

20. Multiple groups shared teachers use research-based teaching strategies and
formative assessments to drive instruction. Teachers shared they re-teach
concepts through centers and small groups. Board members and teachers
shared staff attempt to do what is needed for all students to be successful.

21. Parents reported their students who have graduated from St. Joseph and moved
to high school have made a smooth transition. Parents reported the academic
foundation students received at St. Joseph allowed their students to succeed in
high school. Parents also noted their students learned the importance of work
ethic, completion of assignments, organization and time management and these
skills have been important key factors in the transition to high school.

Recommendations for Improvement:

22. None noted.

Professional Development

In an improving district/school, staff is qualified for assignments and engages in ongoing
learning opportunities to improve effectiveness. Student achievement and other
sources of data are used to set goals for professional development. The district
provides professional learning opportunities that include theory, demonstration, practice,
and coaching. Evidence includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Professional development focus is determined through the analysis of student
achievement and performance data.

Professional development is focused and based on research-based strategies.

Professional development sessions build on one another, are distributed throughout
the school year, and are sustained over time.

Time is provided for teachers to collaborate and apply new content and pedagogical

An established system provides support to monitor and evaluate implementation of
professional development and its impact on student learning.

Formative student data and teacher implementation data are used to adjust
professional development and guide instructional decisions.

All school staff members, instructional and non-instructional, are provided
professional development to support job roles and functions.

Professional development activities contribute to the capacity of all school staff to
develop cultural competence and to reflect and respect diversity in classroom and
work environments.

Noted Strengths:

23. The principal is the leader of the school's professional development. She uses
feedback from teachers and student achievement data to help determine the
focus/content of the year's professional development opportunities and sets the
calendar accordingly.

24. Teachers shared their professional development is focused and on-going.
Creating Independence through Student owned Strategies (CRISS) and
differentiated instruction have been areas for professional learning for several
years. Accountability for professional development implementation is attained by
the principal through daily walk-throughs in each classroom.

Recommendations for Improvement:

25. None noted

Monitoring and Accountability

In an improving district/school, the district/school establishes a comprehensive system
that monitors and documents performance of student progress, curriculum, instruction,
programs, and initiatives. Results from assessments drive the goal setting and
decision-making processes. Leadership supports a system that regularly analyzes
student performance and program effectiveness. Instructional decision-making utilizes
a process of collecting, analyzing, and summarizing data. Evidence includes, but is not
limited to, the following:

A system for district-wide student assessments, including multiple measures that are
valid and reliable, is implemented.

Decision-making for the continuous improvement of instruction and student learning
using student achievement and teacher implementation data is employed.

The district’s/school’s cycle of program evaluation as noted in its CSIP is

Summative evaluation processes are used to determine whether professional
development has resulted in improved student learning.

Noted Strengths:

26. The percentage of St. Joseph Catholic School students’ scoring in the proficient
range of achievement on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) is above the
Heartland AEA and State of Iowa averages in reading, mathematics, and science
in the following reported grade levels.


St. Joseph

State of Iowa

Heartland AEA

Grade 3




Grade 4




Grade 5




Grade 6





St. Joseph

State of Iowa

Heartland AEA

Grade 4




Grade 6




Grade 8





St. Joseph

State of Iowa

Heartland AEA

Grade 3




Grade 6




Grade 8




27. Parents reported they are kept informed about their students’ progress. Emails,
phone calls, conferences, and weekly reports let parents know how their children
are doing in school. Parents appreciate and use the SnapGrades or Jupiter site
that lets them see grades and assignments updated often. Teachers appreciated
parents’ regular use of SnapGrades/Jupiter to stay informed of their child’s grades and overall progress. Student planners are used in grades 2-8 with both teacher and parent signatures required.

28. The school is using several assessments to obtain information regarding student
progress. Information from the various assessments are used to assist the
school in setting goals. Examples of assessments used are:

Iowa Assessments (formerly Iowa Test of Basic Skills)

Constructed Response Supplement (CRS) in Reading and Mathematics

Statewide Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS) in

Assessment of Catechetical Religious Education (ACRE) for Religion

Benchmarking and Running Records in Reading

Recommendations for Improvement:

29. Teacher interviewees shared a desire to see an increase in math scores on
multiple assessments. With the recent adoption of Saxon math, the school is
encouraged to collect data to determine if this program is meeting the needs of
all students. Consider the following questions:

What data was considered in choosing the Saxon math series?

What goals were set based on these data?

What data has been collected for evaluation of the series?

What goals are being set as the school moves forward?

How do graduates perform in math as students move on to high school?

30. Parents were aware of how their students were progressing through the school
curriculum; however, in the needs assessment survey and parent interview it was
noted they were unsure of how the school was progressing towards its goals in
curricular areas. Although a report to the community is required, consider other
ways this information might be disseminated to parents and the community for
greater understanding of the schools achievement. For instance, could this
information be shared at Back to School nights? This information could be
placed in a prominent place on the school website so anyone who visits the site
could access this information?

Areas of Non-Compliance: Chapter 12

The school shall submit a plan of correction for each non-compliance item listed below to the Site Visit Team Leader within 45 business days of the receipt of this report. Evidence of corrective action for non-compliance(s) may be submitted with the plan or at a later date in accordance with the noted timeline. The school may choose to use the following matrix as a format for the development of an action plan or develop its own.

Chapter 12 Non-compliance Issues

Additional Details Plan of Correction Timeline for Completion

None noted.

Areas of Non-Compliance: Outside of Chapter 12

Outside of Chapter 12 Non-compliance Issues

Additional Details Plan of CorrectionTimeline for Completion

None noted.

August 16, 2011 Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass directed School Improvement Consultants to modify the site
visit accreditation process to include the following:

The site visit team leader shall meet with the superintendent to review the non-compliance matrix draft prior to exiting the

Following the review of the non-compliance matrix draft, the superintendent and consultant shall sign and date.

The Department shall send the district a copy of the signed non-compliance matrix draft by registered return receipt within five
(5) business days.

This process should be implemented beginning with the accreditation schedule beginning October, 2011.

Superintendent (Principal or Director) Date

___________________________________________________________________ ________________________

School Improvement Consultant (Iowa Department of Education Representative) Date

___________________________________________________________________ ________________________

Read 2010 times