Tuesday, September 2, 2008

J. Kenan Applies New Programs to Raise Test Scores

J. Kenan applies new programs to raise test scores

Tuesday, September 2, 2008 7:47 AM CDT
KENANSVILLE — Low academic performance at the James Kenan High School has brought about changes by administrators in an effort to help students learn and succeed in the classroom.

Two years ago, the high school was listed by the state as a “low performing school.” State officials, according to Tony Faison, assistant principal at James Kenan, said nine of the 10 low end-of-grade test scores came from freshmen. Faison attributes the low freshman scores to immaturity. That’s where the school board has targeted change in a new school reform model, titled the “Talent Development Model.”

The transition from middle school to high school brings about many changes for the incoming students, said Faison, more independence and responsibility. Poor decisions can be made in those early years, resulting in a negative life outcome.

In a new “learning model” called the “freshman academy,” freshman of the high school will be grouped together. Students who share the same homeroom teacher will comprise a group, and will take the same classes together throughout the day. The idea, said Faison, is to instill a sense of camaraderie, unity and brotherhood, “really just to show love,” said Faison.

Freshman will be separated from other classmen throughout their daily schedule, hopefully building strong lasting relationships with their groups and fellow colleagues.

The academy is part of a two pronged effort to raise test scores at the school. Along with the Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, STEM, school. Administrators are hoping students will benefit.

“We want both models to work for kids; we feel they will,” said Cary Powers, assistant superintendent of Duplin County schools.

The school system will also implement two other learning strategies this year. The first, Study Island, a web-based computer program will allow students to learn at their own individual pace. The program, according to Powers, is customizable by teachers, and will aid in student learning. Topics, like math and reading could be assigned to students and could be further designated by teachers to include a subcategory. After each web-lesson, students can expect about 20 questions on the learned material. The program can be accessed just about any where, said Powers.

The second strategy calls for better communication between teachers. Teachers at every grade level will now be expected to communicate with teachers of the next grade level. The goal is help teachers keep kids from “slipping through the cracks” said Powers.

By Michael Connolly
Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 2, 2008 7:47 AM CDT

Monday, September 1, 2008

School officials plan to use success to spur other schools

School officials plan to use success to spur other schools

By Josh Humphries
The Daily Reflector

Monday, September 01, 2008

Pitt County school officials say that federal measures and state measures show improvement at several schools in the district, and they plan to use that success to spur similar results at other schools.

“We are getting much better at using student assessment data to diagnose student needs,” Superintendent Beverly Reep said in an e-mail response to questions from The Daily Reflector.

“Our most successful schools are using that data regularly to target classroom instruction, remediation, enrichment and support to address individual student learning needs.”

Reep said she has a 10-page document that outlines strategies being used in some Pitt County schools to improve test scores. The district plans to make a series of videos this year to show the strategies being used across the district.

The schools that were successful with federal measures can share ideas with schools that did not make adequate yearly progress or AYP, a measure that gauges achievement under the federal No Child Left Behind act.

Bethel School met both federal and state measures by making high growth and meeting AYP.

Teachers at the school have used a variety of tests to identify areas of academic strength and areas for improvement in each student, according to local schoolofficials.

This allows the teachers and remediation specialists to target specific instructional practices that meet the individual needs of the students. Principal Betty Tolar believes the results validate the hard work and dedication of the school's students and staff.

“Teachers have stepped out of their comfort zones in order to raise the bar for themselves and their students,” Tolar said.

At C.M. Eppes Middle School, where the school achieved high growth in 2007-08 for the first time in the school's history, administrators developed team and grade level strategies to help maintain discipline in the classroom.

The teachers decided that suspending a student would be the last option, said Heather Mayo, spokeswoman for Pitt County Schools.

As a result, suspensions were down by 47 percent during the year allowing students to spend more time in class.

Principal Charlie Langley said it had a direct impact on student achievement. “The children were better behaved and more focused on learning,” he said.

Students regularly used Study Island, a computer study program based on the state's standard course of study, to reinforce learning goals and administer benchmark testing.

Ayden-Grifton High School was the only high school in Pitt County to achieve growth status under state accountability guidelines.

Principal Bill Frazier said the effort took teamwork.

“The staff and students have worked together in setting high expectations as well as creating and implementing a plan to meet those expectations,” Frazier said.

The school implemented a review session that begins six weeks prior to the end of each semester. Frazier believes the review session has helped improve the school's results.

District officials said that talking to a child's principal is the best way right now to learn about the strategies that are in place at the child's school.

Josh Humphries can be contacted at jhumphries@coxnc.com and 329-9565.