Schools complete improvement plans

Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) performance goals for Newcastle High School. 

Both Newcastle Elementary School and Newcastle High School administrations have completed their mandated Wyoming Department of Education (DOE) School Improvement Plans after the two schools were designated as “partially meeting expectations” as a result of performance on last year’s statewide assessments.

“School performance is evaluated on a combination of student performance indicators, including academic achievement, equity and growth based on the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress (WY-TOPP), the state assessment,” a Sept. 14 press release from the DOE says. “Additional indicators for high school include post-secondary readiness and graduation rates.” 

According to the release, 38 of Wyoming’s schools, or 13%, are exceeding expectations, 106 schools, or 36%, are meeting expectations, 85 schools, or 29%, are partially meeting expectations and 63 schools, or 22%, are not meeting expectations for the 2021-22 school year. 

As previously reported in the Oct. 27 story “Two schools ‘partially meeting expectations’,” Newcastle Elementary School Principal Brandy Holmes reported to the News Letter Journal that the district is ranked on four performance levels, in addition to the participation rate set by the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act — achievement, English learning progress, growth and equity. 

The elementary school met expectations for achievement and English learning progress but missed the mark in growth and equity, Holmes said. 

According to the annual report, Newcastle High School performed below target in growth, equity, achievement and ninth grade credits. The school met targets in extended graduation, four-year on-time graduation and post-secondary readiness.

Newcastle High School Principal Bryce Hoffman said that the equity group is made up of students
who scored in the bottom 25% of the school’s students on the prior year’s test. 

“Within our school improvement plan, we will write goals that guide us to plan interventions strategically for these students in both areas,” Hoffman said. 

To address the concerns, both schools had to complete and submit school improvement plans to the Wyoming Department of Education.

Newcastle High School

According to Hoffman, the staff at Newcastle High School decided to focus on the equity group of students, or the students who scored the lowest in math and English language arts. He noted that the staff plans to focus on the math aspect, giving equity group students additional help during enrichment and recovery (ER) time. 

“I have never been a fan of teaching to the test, but if we are going to be judged on that, we have to play the game,” Hoffman told the Weston County School District No. 1 board of trustees on Nov. 9. 

Priority 1

In the plan, the first priority at the high school will be “data-informed” planning with an overall goal of impacting performance goals by providing targeted instruction support to meet students’ academic needs. It will require data to be routinely analyzed in multiple ways and discussed among the staff. 

The rationale behind this practice, according to the plan, involves moving the equity group in a positive direction to improve the schools’ academic performance indicator. Strategies to improve include the discussion of state-
level student data in professional learning communities and assigning interventions and support on a rotational basis based on current data and performance.

During ER time, equity group students will be prioritized with intervention and support at mid-term and quarter breaks, according to the plan. 

“Students in the equity group in ELA (English Language Arts) will be assigned to the linguistics course for no less than the first semester of their 9th grade year,” the plan says. “Students in the math equity group will be assigned to math instruction in the weeks preceding the WY-TOPP exam for intervention.” 

Priority 2

Newcastle High School staff listed priority 2 in the plan as professional development that will require an ongoing professional development structure and practices — e.g., professional learning communities, collaborative meeting time, coach supports, peer-to-peer observation or collaboration — for instructional improvement. 

“The team felt a professional development structure that provides opportunities for instructional improvement specific to their content area as well as opportunities across content areas would be appropriate to impact student performance,” the plan says. “This was a practice that had been utilized but with staff turnover some new staff do not have the training and professional development for consistency of practice schoolwide.” 

Using the professional learning communities, teachers will be retrained in applying the reading and writing
process schoolwide. By applying consistent practices, the plan says that students will become familiar with standard procedures and have repetition of these skills in various content areas. 

Peer-to-peer observation will also be used to hopefully improve instructional practice. 

To achieve these goals, the school will hold workshops
in relation to the reading process, writing process and math curriculum. 

“This will impact performance goals by allowing for cross-curriculum practice of skills necessary to be successful academically,” the plan says. “It will also improve teacher performance in carrying out these teaching methods.” 

Newcastle Elementary School

According to Holmes, Newcastle Elementary School staff also decided to focus on math while drafting the school’s improvement plan. She noted that they hope to “firm up some stuff” and hopefully see improvement in student scores. 

Identified in the improvement plan are two different domains, or priorities, staff at the school will focus on to improve school performance. 

Domain 1

The first domain is listed as “learning support.” 

“The systematic approach for prevention and intervention includes student placements that are reviewed by a relevant team who use consistent rules and procedures to deliver effective interventions and support for student growth,” the plan says. 

The rationale for this focus lies in the school’s math performance on the WY-TOPP test. To improve, the school will use Bridges in Mathematics and Bridges Intervention, a research-based program that provides scaffolded learning opportunities for students. 

“As a K-5 building, NES will formalize a system that utilizes math data that targets specific math performance standards and/or mathematical concepts,” the plan says.

The end goal, according to the plan, is to increase the number of students experiencing adequate achievement and growth on the WY-TOPP test with the math performance standards and/or mathematical concepts. 

Domain 2

In the plan, domain 2 is listed as “instruction.” 

It states that “leaders and staff will work together to design and implement a high-quality, standards-aligned instructional program that results in high levels of achievement for all students.” 

The rationale behind this domain is related to student performance in math, specifically growth. 

Staff at the school will use Bridges Number Corner, a research-based program that incorporates research-based strategies that allow students to interweave new skills with previously acquired skills. The school plans to establish expectations related to Number Corner that are aligned to the math performance standard. 

The overall goal is to increase the number of students experiencing growth on the WY-TOPP test due to the focus on aligning with the school’s math performance standards.


The complete school improvement plans can be read at

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