Archive for Wednesday, May 21, 2003

BES receives honors; makes improvements

May 21, 2003

Baldwin Elementary School students have made noticeable improvement over the last couple of years.

In fact, the students' progress was so great, BES will no longer be listed as a Title I school in need of improvement.

Maybe more importantly, though, this year the students achieved the Standard of Excellence on the math, reading and science state assessment tests -- the highest achievement possible.

"We always knew we were a good school," Cathy Maxon, BES fourth grade teacher, said. "We always knew we had good kids."

State assessments, which are the state's way of grading schools, were only taken by the fourth and fifth graders. The fourth graders received the Standard of Excellence in science and math, while the fifth graders triumphed in the reading assessments.

The honor comes just one year after BES found out it had been placed on a list of Title I funded schools by the U.S. Department of Education as not having made adequate academic progress with some students.

BES receives Title I funding based on the number of students that receive free meals. The funding received is used to help students that score below the 40th percentile on reading and math. The list of schools compiled was based on the state assessment scores of only those students below the 40th percentile.

BES Principal Tom Mundinger said one of the school's goals this year was to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) on the state assessments. AYP is determined by the number of students who score in the proficient category or above on the tests.

In order to get off the improvement list, BES had to have two straight years of AYP, which it accomplished with last year's and this year's assessment scores. In fact, this year not one student in the fourth or fifth grades scored in the unsatisfactory category.

"We're on the right list now," Celia Boyne-Shuh, BES social worker, said. "We're on the list we should have always been on."

The school's improvement didn't come without a lot of hard work from both the students and the faculty, which started the first day of the school year.

"We approached it differently," Nancy Parr, BES fourth grade teacher, said. "We knew what we were strong in, we knew what we were weak in."

The teachers had several meetings and inservices throughout the year to address the school's strengths and weaknesses. Becoming familiar with the state's standards and the changes being made was also important.

But the work didn't happen with just the fourth and fifth grade teachers. The younger grade level teachers also became a part of the improvement process.

"There was a lot of collaboration at all of the grade levels," Maxon said.

Consultants also came in to help the school evaluate its weaknesses, particularly in reading and math.

"We then had a more streamlined picture to look at," Amy Wintermantel, BES fourth grade teacher, said.

The extra work and focus carried over into the classrooms.

"We looked at all kinds of learning," Maxon said.

"We did a lot to engage the students and get them involved," Parr said.

Much of the emphasis was also placed on how students could utilize what they learned in class.

"We taught them test taking strategies. We taught them how to take tests," Gina Hill, BES fourth grade teacher, said. "These tests are not easy."

"For the assessments, knowing the information is not enough," Wintermantel said. "You must be able to apply the information."

One thing Mundinger said he thought made a difference this year was the after school math and reading program, MARS.

Some fourth and fifth graders spent a half hour two nights a week after school working a little more on math and reading.

"We kept close track of whether they were getting the concept," Kim Barraclough, MARS and reading resource teacher, said. "We could take a half hour and really focus on what they were not getting."

The school's work paid off because, while other schools in the district also received the Standard of Excellence in one of the assessments, BES was the only one to receive the Standard of Excellence in three categories.

"I think we demonstrated as a school how we rose to adversity," Wintermantel said.

The teachers agreed the school was successful because of the effort the students put forth throughout the year.

"We all knew that every one of those students did their personal best," Parr said.

"They really, really wanted to do well," Hill said.

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