Helping elementary school students improve their state test scores in Columbia involved setting aside more time to teach them at their ability level — whether it was lower or higher than their grade level, according to a former principal there.
Brad Landgraf worked in Columbia School District 4 as principal of Parkview Elementary, where he said more students are meeting the state’s standards for what they should know about English and math since the district changed its teaching strategies.
He recently took over as superintendent in Millstadt School District 160, where his goal is to help those students improve over time, too.
Former District 160 superintendent Jonathan Green resigned Aug. 1 after six years in Millstadt. He took a new job as superintendent in Mounds, Illinois, about 50 miles south of Carbondale.
Landgraf, 49, said he plans to spend the new school year learning about students’ needs in Millstadt and listening to ideas from teachers and parents.
About half (51 percent) of the children in Millstadt are meeting the state’s standards, compared to the statewide average of 34 percent, according to 2017 test scores.
Parkview has been among the top-scoring local schools since 2015. It was even nominated for recognition from the U.S. Department of Education based its test scores, according to Landgraf.
He said the percentage of proficient students there was up to 70 percent in third- and fourth-grade classes last spring. The state hasn’t released those 2018 scores to the public yet.
Landgraf said he wants to bring what worked in Columbia to Millstadt.
“The main way to improve student achievement is through teacher collaboration and teacher leadership,” he said.
Columbia teachers would take time during the school year and over the summer to look at data and use it to make decisions about the way they taught, according to Landgraf. The staff also chose to rearrange the schedule to give students more time in the school day to work on reading and math.
“We had to prioritize certain subject areas sometimes over another,” Landgraf said. “Maybe we do some reading during social studies time or things like that.”
The state’s test for students in third through eighth grades is PARCC, which measures what they know about English and math. It stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career.
A separate assessment measures what students know about science.
About Brad Landgraf
Landgraf’s new position as Millstadt’s superintendent is the first job he has applied for outside of Columbia in 22 years. That’s how long he worked in Columbia School District 4 as a physical education teacher, assistant principal and principal.
Before coming to Millstadt, Landgraf had been principal of Eagleview Elementary, a school for students in pre-kindergarten through first grade, as well as Parkview.
April Becherer replaced Landgraf at the elementary schools. She was previously the assistant principal at Eagleview.
Landgraf said the changes District 4 made to improve student achievement, which included updating the curriculum and the instruction, happened over the course of about five years. Any changes in Millstadt wouldn’t happen right away either, he said.
“I certainly don’t expect it to happen in the first six months or year, and I don’t expect everything to happen at once,” Landgraf said. “And I’m not saying that things have to change here either. This is a good school. I think the people who work here are very dedicated, from the people that I’ve met. ... They care very much about their students.
“So I can see there being some tweaks or some adjustments or just some things like that. I don’t expect that we need to make major overhauls here in Millstadt.”
Millstadt School District 160’s enrollment is about 800 students on average. It employs more than 50 teachers.
School started Aug. 15. Landgraf has been working since Aug. 1.
His salary is $112,000 as the district’s new superintendent.
At a glance
▪ Name: Brad Landgraf
▪ Age: 49
▪ Education: Bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale; master’s degree from University of Illinois in Springfield; specialist degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; doctorate degree from SIUE
▪ Experience: Three years as Waverly High School health, physical education and driver’s education teacher and coach in central Illinois; two years as Parkview Elementary School P.E. teacher; 12 years as Parkview assistant principal; four years as Eagleview Elementary School principal; three years as Parkview and Eagleview principal
▪ Family: Wife Kelly and two sons: Hayden, 23, and Brody, 11