Published On: Wed, Nov 6th, 2013

MES focused on constant improvement

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Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

At the LSIC/Faculty Senate board of education meeting at Marlinton Elementary School Monday night, principal Ron Hall told the board he feels the Westest numbers do not reflect the abilities of his students and staff.

“I’m going to tell you, I’m very disappointed – not in my staff or in my students – I’m disappointed in the scores,” Hall said. “Not just on our school level. I’m disappointed on the county level and the state level because I keep telling my staff, I know that more than forty-four percent of my students in third grade are mastery level. I know this and they know it, as well.”

Hall shared a printout of test scores which show that the students at MES did better than the state on some levels, but they still need to improve.

“We have scored above the state or even with the state and there’s a few that we’re below,” he said. “It’s a constant battle. We are constantly changing things to try to bring those scores up. I feel better about this year than I’ve felt in a long time. We are working on progress and we will continue to work. These teachers are working hard and diligently to get these kids scores up.”

Superintendent Dr. Donald Bechtel shared a printout of just the math and reading scores for the third and fourth grade. He explained that the school is very close to having several students achieve mastery or above.

“Marlinton Elementary is really on the cutting edge with Number Talks in math,” he said. “They were a training site for the entire system and I feel like, after eight years with the math series, we’re realizing that children really need Number Talks. So as a school they have been working hard with going through the existing teacher’s edition and then bringing in Number Talks which will really support children using manipulatives. I feel like the teachers at Marlinton are really cutting edge relative to that. They have the program now in place and last year was a big kick-off year so that means our current third graders will have had Number Talks for an entire year.”

First grade teachers Barbara Beard and Ginny Shaw gave a presentation on the Number Talks program which they are utilizing in the classroom.

“We both have seen great improvements in our students’ ability to build their higher level thinking skills,” Beard said. “They can actually tell us why and how they solve a math problem. Number Talks is a powerful process that helps students learn to reason with numbers and make mathematically convincing arguments for building a solid math foundation. As a Number Talk takes place, we listen and follow our students thinking and this understanding helps us to teach them math.”

Beard said they ask the students two questions: How many do you see? and How do you see them?

“When students share and discuss their computation strategies, they can clarify their own thinking, consider and test other strategies, investigate and apply mathematical relationships, compile a list of efficient strategies and make decisions about what strategies work for specific problems,” Beard said.

Shaw shared several examples from her classroom and said the students are finding their own methods to solve problems, which they share with their fellow students.

“It just takes a simple five to ten minutes of your math lesson every day to do it, so I do it before I start my Everyday Math lesson,” Beard said. “We’re a firm believer in what this can do for our students’ math future. I think it has a powerful impact for our students.”

Faculty senate president Kristi Smith shared other methods utilized in the school to assist students with their education.

“We’re constantly trying to improve our curriculum and instruction for our students,” she said. “Some of the ways that we’re doing that is by Word of the Day. We’ve got Mr. Hall who announces the vocabulary word of the day which is displayed in the hallways and in the classrooms. We have bellringers. The beginning of each subject area is started with a quick activity or class question to get the class motivated.”
The classrooms are also focused on higher level questions to get the students thinking on a higher level.

The teachers are using collaboration horizontally and vertically to follow the students through the grade levels.

“We’re going to be collaborating horizontally and vertically so that we can make sure we know what is coming and we can know what happens after our grade level, also with our grade level so we can all be on the same page,” Smith said.

Smith also thanked the board for the new parent involvement coordinator who has improved the amount of parental involvement at the school.

“We have seen many more parents in our building throughout the school day, throughout the week due to having the parent involvement coordinator,” she said. “That’s just wonderful because we get the added support we need and they feel more comfortable because they are here more frequently. That has really helped.”

Hall shared information about improvements made to the facility. He said having the gymnasium at the Pocahontas County Wellness Center has been wonderful. The students are able to move around a lot more during physical education classes and using the gym has freed up the multi-purpose room for other teachers to use.

He added that there are new blinds in all the classrooms, a new parking lot and a new covering for the walkway to the wellness center.

Hall also shared photos from several programs implemented during the school year including Jammin’ Across the Good, Make it Orange United Day, Wear Pink Day, the Bus Safety Program and the Halloween Safety Day.
The next program is Thursday at 9:30 a.m. to honor Veterans in the area. Hall said all Veterans are welcome and he invited the board to come, as well.

The board thanked Hall and his staff for the reports and updates.

In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:

• The Pocahontas County High School Spanish Club to travel to Spain during the week of Spring Break 2014.

• To rescind the action taken at the October 7 meeting, resignation of Laura Young as grant coordinator for the Innovation Zone Dropout Prevention Grant, retroactive to September 24, 2013.

The next board meeting is Tuesday, November 12, at 7 p.m. at the board of education conference room.

The next LSIC/Faculty Senate meeting is Monday, December 2, at 7 p.m. at Marlinton Middle School.

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at sastewart@pocahontastimes.com

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