Gov. Terry Branstad seemed to have nothing but good news for Jasper County Wednesday, May 8.
In addition to the $1.9 billion wind energy announcement, he praised Colfax-Mingo Elementary School for the work it has done in lowering the achievement gap in reading.
“Some schools do excel at teaching literacy, despite poverty,” Branstad said. “We know that it can be done. Many of us grew up in poverty and had great teachers who inspired us to really achieve. For example, look at what’s happened at the Colfax-Mingo school district.”
“About half the third graders are eligible for free or reduced lunches,” Branstad continued. “Yet, the share of third graders reading proficiently has risen dramatically, from 63 percent back in 2006 and 2007 to nearly 94 percent last year. Principal Brian Summy attributes their success at Colfax-Mingo to good communication, intensive intervention, and making sure instruction consistently matches student achievement data.”
Branstad spoke at an educational event called, “A Conversation on Closing the Achievement Gap.” The event was put on by Reaching Higher Iowa and its founder, Mark Jacobs, and was held at World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines.
Jacobs is also an educational advocate and byproduct of the Iowa public school system and has previously stated that his intent is to get Iowa public schools back to the top of the national rankings.
Jacobs had previously spoken in Newton on March 19, where he laid out his strategies on improving the public school system in Iowa to the Rotary Club of Newton. His organization seems to be gaining steam as both Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds were in attendance and Branstad praised Jacobs and his organization.
“First of all, thank you for coming back to Iowa,” Branstad said of Jacobs. “Thank you for founding this Reach Higher Iowa and setting these very ambitious goals and really getting involved in improving education in Iowa.”
Colfax Mingo principal Brian Summy also seemed to be pleased with the recognition that his school received from the Branstad.
“We feel great about it, our staff has worked really hard over the years to find what we can do to reach our kids,” Summy said. “We’re really pleased with the results that we’ve seen and we know our work isn’t done and that we have to keep after it.”
“It’s just nice to be reaffirmed and to know that you have been doing some good things,” Summy continued. “We had a time where our test scores weren’t that good. It’s just nice to have our community and our school recognized for doing some good things academically.”
As Branstad noted, Summy credits his schools success to studying data and a few other things.
“Probably the biggest thing we’ve done is we’ve been a part of Instructional Decision Making, we began that (process) five years ago,” Summy said. “What that forced us to do, was look at our student information VF (Verification Form). All that information, all the test scores and stuff that we collect on kids and analyze what was it really telling us?”
“Really what we found is that it helped us make better decisions on what we were teaching our kids,” Summy continued. “It helped us come up with better ideas of what to do with kids that were struggling. It really helped us use our data better; it helped us get to our kids more efficiently.”