New Martinsville School Principal Fay Pritchard detailed the Local School Improvement Council's annual report to the Wetzel County Board of Education during their regular meeting held Nov. 7. Most notably, Pritchard shared that the students' test scores are improving and that many programs are being implemented to continue such efforts in addition to increasing student and parent involvement. Also, while many initiatives are proving successful, Pritchard desires more planning time be afforded to teachers to better analyze data and plan activities.
Regarding the WesTest, scores show the third grade met proficiency in mathematics at 26.88 percent and 34.41 percent in reading; fourth grade at 48.15 percent in mathematics and 38.27 percent in reading; fifth grade at 41.25 percent in mathematics and 37.50 percent in reading; sixth grade at 50 percent in mathematics and 57.84 percent in reading; seventh grade at 53.57 percent in mathematics and 57.14 percent in reading; and in eighth grade students met proficiency at 31.52 percent and 49.45 percent, respectively.
Pritchard underlined that in looking at the break down of test scores, "The longer (students) are with us, the better they get."
New Martinsville School
One method NMS is implementing to increase test scores is to identify students who are close to meeting mastery, and meeting with them in small groups for WesTest 2 Talks to show them test scores so they understand what the scores mean as well as to then allow students to identify their own strengths and weaknesses. "All too often we don't share that information with them," Pritchard noted. Similarly, Pritchard intends to offer such training to parents so they can read and fully understand such scoring.
"We have some very strong academic students who do very well day to day, but when it comes to taking that test, they seem to fall short," Pritchard said pertaining to the WesTest. She said the school would be using the Acuity platform to teach students how to take a test question apart and to not just "guess and move on."
Board Vice President Bob Patterson asked Pritchard if she felt the pressure personally and on the staff with the WesTest. "The thing is," Pritchard began, "that's one test in one day. It's a shame that not only New Martinsville School, but all schools, are measured in that fashion."
"We try not to make every day about the WesTest," Pritchard went on to say, however she does firmly believe the better the students understand how to take and look at their own test scores, they'll be able to move forward and improve. "There's a whole lot of pressure there," she added.
Even though the school did not make Adequate Yearly Progress this year, Pritchard stands firm in her belief that the students are receiving a quality education. "When we make decisions, we make them based on students' needs."
Patterson noted, "Our students are getting better every year." Pritchard agreed, resolving the state department needed to "stop moving the goal line."
Pritchard also stated parent involvement was a big facet in the school. In efforts to increase such involvement Pritchard has been scheduling "coffee chats" with parents. Unfortunately, she noted not many parents have shown up for the informal gatherings, but she's not giving up. "We need to get parents in so we can learn what we need to do to better the students," she stressed. Other plans to improve parent involvement include suggestion boxes and programs in conjunction with the PTO.
Under the school's five-year strategic plan, NMS will: provide all students with the opportunity to fulfill their potential by creating a challenging, supporting, enriching, and safe environment for learning; strive to meet the needs of all learners and to recognize each student's uniqueness; encourage all students to realize their full potential; challenge all students and staff to establish a school community of learners; and strive to elevate the importance of great teachers and learning. Additionally, the school believes students, parents, communities, and educators are partners in the lifelong learning process.
Goals of the school are as follows:
All students at NMS will be educated in a safe and drug-free learning environment that supports academic achievement.
All students in the Students with Disability subgroup will demonstrate increased achievement as evidenced on the WesTest through 2014.
All students will achieve mastery or above on educational standards as measured by state assessments for 2009 through 2014.
All teachers in every content area will utilize the West Virginia 21st Century CSOs.
Through the use of technology integration in the classrooms, student achievement will be maximized, student learning will be enhanced, and 21st Century skills will be improved.
Other ways the school plans to improve student achievement and prepare NMS students for the 21st Century include the development of SMART (Strategic, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, Time-bound) Goals and review those goals after in-depth data analysis. NMS will also take Instructional Practices Inventory wherein they will measure the level of student involvement during instructional time.
She noted the school has been working to tear apart data and better understand it with the help from teachers at Valley High School. "Administrators here have worked diligently," she said, "in helping us get back to our SMART Goals."
She also said they would be examining vertical alignment between NMS and Magnolia High School, explaining she hopes students will improve from the middle school level to the high school level.
Other programs to be continued throughout the school year include the School-Wide Literacy Leadership Team to look at school-wide strengths and weaknesses in the area of literacy. Throughout the last two years, the LSIC has developed transition cards to follow students through their years at NMS and provide vital information to teachers at the beginning of the school year, identify strategies to assist in turning weaknesses into strengths, and showing forward progress for all students on the yearly WesTest 2. Membership of the team includes teachers from every grade level across content areas, and general and special educators.
The Student Council at NMS continues to address student concerns and issues. The council provides students with a voice and ability to learn how to work with school personnel and administration to initiate change.
The school will also continue its Art Enrichment Club, choir, yearbook staff, band, problem based learning activities, a roller coaster activity dealing with physics, Suessical the Musical, after-school music enrichment, etc. These are just a few of the great things going on at NMS.
Continued incorporation and implementation of AIMS Web will provide teachers with immediate data to identify specific areas of weaknesses for individual students and therefore develop a plan of remediation/re-teach activities to address the weaknesses in both reading and mathematics. The data obtained from AIMS Web is used with the Support for Personalized Learning Model, a research-based approach to identifying students who are experiencing difficulty in reading and designing intensive instruction to address those specific weaknesses to close the achievement gap and bring students to grade level.
The SRA Reading Mastery and Corrective Reading program for students with disabilities is also continuing. This program is research based and provides a direct instruction approach to teaching reading. At the present, Debra West, Meg Ensinger, Susie Grilli, and Emily McGuire are the school's master teachers of these programs and they assist new special education teachers to ensure the program is being implemented correctly. This program is also being used to address Support for Personalized Learning, formerly known as Response to Intervention.
Math, science, and reading classrooms continue to incorporate teams of teachers working together to co-teach all of the students in the classroom. Also, as physical fitness is directly related to learning, physical education teachers are having structured recess three days per week.
Incorporation of 21st Century Skills into daily lessons remains a priority at NMS, with teachers accessing computer labs on a weekly basis, developing lessons which involve activities to strengthen such skills, and utilizing Accelerated Reading and Accelerated Math programs, Odyssey, and integrating technology into daily teaching routines through the use of whiteboards.
NMS's Collaborative Team Network will continue to work and focus on professional learning communities, student achievement, and assessments for learning. The team includes Dee Myers, Lisa Ferrell, Lisa Toman, Wendy Tallman, Aaron Vigliotti, Meg Ensinger, Sarah Yeater, Debra West, Roberta Blair, Alison Fluharty, Angelle Copeland, Bruce Ensinger, and Pritchard. Research has show when teachers have the opportunity to meet in professional learning communities on a regular basis and students become active in the assessment process for learning, significant gains are made in achievement, with the lowest students showing the greatest gains. As stated by Dr. Jorea Marple, West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools, research shows teachers in other countries receive 15-25 hours of collaborative time a week. These school systems are able to effectively change their instruction and raise the achievement levels of their students. This time must be built into the calendar, urges Pritchard, stating they fall far short of this collaborative time for our teachers.
Relatedly, the school will continue to use Common Planning Time for grade level teams to meet and address student needs, skill weaknesses, and plan for how to address these issues. This time is used to develop lessons and utilize fluid and flexible groupings to address individual student needs, evaluate and create responsible learners for the 21st Century, and to identify at-risk students, below mastery students, develop cross-curricular lessons, intervention plans, and SAT referrals.
However, Pritchard states the 20-25 minute block of time at the start of the day is not sufficient to effectively review matters and plan effectively, which is why Pritchard continues to request additional time for teachers to allow for vertical planning/alignment, data analysis time, lesson studies, action research, peer observation, and coaching, to evaluate and improve instructional practices. "If raising student achievement is important, then we need to change how we do things," says Pritchard.