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Building relationships improves schools
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The system for monitoring children’s reading and math skills can also apply to their behavior, Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education members were told Thursday.
Lincoln Elementary School’s family support worker, Kylee Graves, was one of the presenters when the school board held its monthly luncheon meeting at the school. Principal Misty Straub and the Kansas Reading Roadmap/LIFE coordinator Trish Bailey were also presenters.
At Great Bend schools, students are periodically tested for proficiency in math and reading, and the levels of mastery are described as three tiers: green, yellow and red. Students in the green tier are performing at the expected level for their grade, while yellow is a caution light that signals a student may need intervention. Those in the red zone need even more focused intervention.
Last year, educators were told to tier students by behavior as well and to create red and yellow interventions, Graves said. With no extra staff for the new task, she said, “we had to get really creative on how we provided those.”
Teachers looked at students’ behavior and social skills to decide which tier they belonged in.
Was a student shy, depressed or lonely? Accepted or rejected by peers? Were there behavior problems resulting in trips to the office, absence, or aggressive behavior?
The teachers identified the red and yellow tiered students and they were asked to teach social skill lessons that targeted problems, Graves said. Many teachers agreed to do the extra work, which soon paid off.
“In my opinion, it’s all about relationships,” Graves said. Often teachers who worked with a student in the red tier would rate the student higher after working with him or her.
Graves is also involved in interventions. Some students join her for lunch and as they eat together they work on the social skills lessons.

All Stars
 There’s also a new program for all sixth graders called “All Stars.” Graves compared this program to the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) offered to fifth graders. All Stars is taught by Juvenile Services and is designed to prevent high-risk behaviors. Students are encouraged to think about future careers. They list four things they think are important and that they want in their futures and four things they don’t. They learn what they need to do to achieve their goals — such as stay in school — and what might be a roadblock.
The class also encourages the students to sit down with their parents and talk about these things.
Graves said the class is offered to all sixth graders. Their parents could “opt out” of having their children attend the class but none did.

 Bailey coordinates Lincoln Elementary’s Kansas Reading Roadmap. Superintendent Khris Thexton said this after-school program for struggling readers in grades K-3 is offered in all five of USD 428’s elementary schools. One component of KRR is Literacy Integrated Family Engagement (LIFE) classes.
Four families attended Lincoln’s latest eight-week LIFE program, which helped them become more involved in the community as well as the school, Bailey said. Another group will start in January.

Grant approved
The school board on Thursday acknowledged a $300 gift from the U.S. National Park Foundation. The “Every Kid in the Park” grant was for bus transportation reimbursement for Park Elementary fourth-grade students to travel to the Fort Larned National Historic Site. Students toured the exhibits “Geology and Archeology,” “Blacksmithing” and “Following the Footsteps of a Soldier.”