Intermediate school reports on academic progress and challenges
Warm Springs Intermediate School achieved adequate yearly progress for the first time in five years through safe harbor, said Principal Dudley Cable at the February 5 Morgan County School Board meeting. Cable’s remarks came during their local school improvement council (LSIC) presentation at the intermediate school.
Safe harbor is when a school decreases by 10% the number of students that achieved less than mastery in reading/language arts and math on the WESTEST 2 exam and has made progress or is at or above target on attendance, graduation or WESTEST participation rates.
Percentages of intermediate school students proficient in reading and language arts and math increased in both areas. Three-year trends showed academic improvements in special education and low socio-economic students as well as all students.
Writing has been their big emphasis. Students showed significant gains in writing skills in the online WESTEST2 writing assessments as they moved from third to fourth grade and also from fourth to fifth grade, Cable said.
Teachers are working with students on specific skills they needed. Lesson plan formats were adopted so teachers and students can easily see what tasks still need done each day.
The school’s vision statement is that “students will learn to be mature, lifelong decision-makers; responsible, informed citizens; technologically competent problem-solvers; and creative, involved and productive members of a global society.”
New standards, exams
The school is moving toward implementing the West Virginia Next Generation curriculum standards, the state’s version of the national Common Core Standards that are being adopted by more than 47 states.
Teachers have been trained on the new standards and the new Smarter Balanced Assessments, which will replace WESTEST 2 exams.
Tests could involve group or partner performance tasks or lab experiments and writing about their results, said teacher Deborah Ditto. Each group of students may have to answer differently, with a PowerPoint presentation, drawing, graph or essay, said teacher Tia Myers.
Kids will need to be prepared for the new exams. The fourth grade will be piloting the Smarter Balanced Assessments this year, Myers said.
The intermediate school has 381 students enrolled. Some 62.5% of their students are eligible for free and reduced meals, a substantial increase from past years, Cable said.
Attendance has been good, but decreased when the school was hit hard recently with illness, he said.
School guidance counselor Matthew Tolliver set a goal of reducing tardiness at the school. They’ve been working with families however they can to help. The number of chronically tardy students has gone down, Tolliver said.
Bullying, peer court
Tolliver was working with students on the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and the Too Good for Violence program. He talked about normal peer conflicts versus bullying and dealing with them as separate issues. The online Sprigeo anonymous bullying reporting system is in place for kids and parents to use.
Tolliver said the school has a peer court system this year with a grand jury, bailiff, witnesses and the defendant to deal with some student issues. Consequences usually led to peer mediation. The impact of the program has been great with kids telling other kids that certain behaviors are not okay.
“It’s more powerful coming from them,” Tolliver noted.
The whole school and staff are reading “Because of Winn Dixie” for the One Book, One School program and is enjoying activities related to the book like tasty treats and trivia challenges, said librarian Susan Thomas. The program is a way to build communities of readers.
The school is excited to have 16 Read Aloud volunteers that are reading to classes. It was noted that research showed that reading aloud to kids increases their reading comprehension and test scores.
Fifth grade teacher Kelsea Schwartz said her kids loved playing the free Sumdog math games where they become avatars and answer math questions. Students can play against each other, other school classes, other schools and even globally.
Technology, school climate
Technology is being put to good use, Cable said. Computer labs are located in different centers and they have mobile computers on wheels (COWs) that can be moved where needed. Interactive smart boards have been installed in every classroom.
School climate is excellent. They have over 100 volunteers that are helping at the school, he said.
Assistant Principal Rebecca Miller-Gray began a monthly Payday Goodies lunch where teams of staff alternate bringing special foods. They’ve had a Super Bowl tailgate day, a chili day and a Valentine’s Day treat day and got kids involved in the fun.
The school pilot of the new Engrade system, a replacement for the Edline communications system, is going well. Bright yellow paper was chosen for important papers they send home to parents to alert them of the urgency of the communications.
The school building is in good shape, Cable said. They are beginning to see some wear and tear on the sidewalks. Safety improvements have occurred including the visitor sign-in kiosk and the mantrap.
The school community garden project is a hit. Cable said that students will plant a pie-shaped garden of annual flowers at the school entrance. Part of his 10-year plan is to create a school orchard.
Warm Springs Intermediate School also won a state contest for their video of “Call Me Maybe.”