Official: Students show improvement

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Students at Greencastle Community Schools are continuing to show improvement in their math and writing skills, according to officials who reported to the school board Wednesday night.

Assistant Superintendent Kirk Freeman presented the board with a series of charts showing the percentage of students who are currently meeting achievement standards set forth as part of the Professional Learning Community initiative.

Started in the late 1980s and early '90s, the idea of learning communities encourages teachers and administrative staff to work together to improve overall student achievement. This includes regular meetings between teachers and staff, ongoing education for the teachers themselves, sharing of ideas and regular students assessments, or tests.

Freeman said the idea caught fire in Greencastle about three years ago.

Greencastle students from kindergarten through high school were recently tested for their progress both in computation, or math, and writing development skills. The teachers create the tests and give them to students early in the year, then again in the middle part of the year and at the end of year.

Freeman said the students' scores on the first test, which he presented to the school board Wednesday night, are not as important as whether they show improvement on the second test this winter.

Freeman said the ultimate goal is to get a majority of the students passing the tests by the end of the school year.

"It's amazing how these children will advance throughout the year," he said.

Freeman presented the school board with several graphic charts depicting the percentage of students who met "mastery" during the first test earlier this year.

For a student to reach mastery, they must attain a score of between 75 and 85 percent on each test.

For writing development, the teachers have set a goal to see 85 percent of the students reach mastery level. For computation, the goal has been set at 80 percent.

According to the writing development chart, most of the grade levels are nearing the goal of 85 percent.

At the high school, the senior class has, in fact, already exceeded the goal for writing with 87 percent of students reaching mastery level. The junior and sophomore classes aren't far behind with percentages of 76 and 72 respectively. The freshman class reported 65 percent passage.

At the elementary grades, a majority of classes showed more than half the students reaching mastery. Second graders at Ridpath Elementary faired the best with 73 percent of students reaching mastery level. Lower scores were recorded at the kindergarten and first-grade levels at both elementary schools.

For computation, or math skills, scores tended to be lower. Here the high school was not categorized by grade, rather by type of math, such as algebra, geometry, pre-algebra and algebra II.

Sixty percent of algebra students are at the mastery level, according to the chart. At the opposite end, between 4 and 5 percent of fifth- and sixth-graders scored at the mastery level on the first math test.

Looking at all grade levels for computation, only two classes are more than halfway to the 80-percent goal. The rest have less than 40 percent of students at the mastery level.

Freeman said teachers will be encouraged to assist those students who may be struggling and hopefully cause those achievement numbers to rise.

"I'm very pleased with where we're headed," he said.

Meanwhile, school board members learned that student enrollment is up for the corporation this year.

Superintendent Bob Green said the ADM, taken recently, stands at 1,934 students, up 52 from a year ago. It was noted that all schools in the district seemed to show about equal increases.

Green said more students mean more money from the state, however, he did not know how much that would be.

In other business, the board:

-- Approved the monthly personnel report to include the following new hires: Teresa Keck, instructional assistant for resource room at high school; and Mikiko Obara, ESL instructional assistant.

The following resignations were approved: Richard Knapp, transportation supervisor; Becky Greenlee, high school girls' assistant track coach; and Susan Wainman, high school assistant varsity cheer coach.

Also approved were Terri Collins, club sponsor for GHS Ambassadors; and Jennifer Evans, volunteer for high school girls' winter color guard.

-- Approved the 2007 graduation exercises for 7 p.m. May 25 at McAnally Center.

-- Heard that School Safety Officer Shawn Gobert was investigating adding security to the corporation building. Recent violence at schools across the U.S. reiterated the importance of security, Gobert told the board. Gobert is currently investigating the cost to install a security camera and intercom system at the front doors of the buildings.

The Greencastle School Board meets at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Miller Education Center.

Area citizens gearing up for the annual Putnam County Youth Development Commission Coats for Kids campaign are (kneeling) Betty McFarland, Nora Stork, Pam Turner, (middle) Loretta Maxwell, Mary Ann Saathoff, Donna Stanley, (back) Jim Maxwell, Chuck Saathoff and Patti Harmless. The boxes were decorated by members of the Kappa Delta Phi Sorority.

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