A sixth grader at Jefferson Elementary School who was struggling with reading at the start of the school year got extra help, which has made a world of difference, English Language Arts coach Natalie DeForest told the school board Thursday. It was another example of how frequent testing and prompt interventions help teachers target what students need to work on.
“The kids are getting specific skills in what they’re lacking,” DeForest said.
“That’s the beauty of our MTSS process,” Great Bend USD 428 Federal Programs Coordinator Tricia Reiser said, referring to the Multi-Tiered System of Supports used throughout USD 428. “We can go back and fill in the holes that our students have.”
Last fall, 22 of Jefferson’s second graders were not fluent in reading skills and were also slow readers, DeForest said. Now only 10 students are in this group.
School board member Don Williams wanted to know if students who need interventions feel isolated. Years ago, he recalled, readers in different levels had code names — such as redbird or bluebird. It wasn’t hard for them to understand which group was slower.
That’s not how it works with MTSS, educators said. The material needed for a skill at any grade level is there for them, Jefferson Principal Kip Wilson explained. If a student is struggling with “silent e” or not able read as fast as others, there is time to work on a specific area. The students aren’t delegated to one group for the entire semester.
“The groups are kind of fluid,” he said. “Sometimes a light bulb comes on and a kid moves.”
Assistant Superintendent John Popp is able to share his experience as a parent as well as an educator. He said he sometimes asks his second grader, “whose group are you in?” It changes from week to week. “She has no idea if she’s up or down,” he said.
Math coach Janell Foote had similar success stories.
“I get goose bumps,” she said. “It’s exciting to see.”
Jefferson started the year monitoring 117 students that needed to make progress in math skills; now there are 92 in that group and 25 have moved up, she said.
A fifth grader who moved into the district this year was tested at a third-grade level. Foote began meeting with him once or twice a week and he moved up to fourth-grade level.
“We took some dips down, and all of a sudden the light bulb’s coming on,” Foote said. This semester he tested at the fifth-grade level, where he needs to be, she said. “He did a little dip down; we’re kind of trying to work him back up, building that confidence, but when we made that ‘good news phone call’ to his mom, his mom couldn’t even talk; she was in tears, knowing how much progress her son has made.”
During Thursday’s meeting the school board formally accepted three recent donations:
• Revive Body + Soul - Nicole Lofland contributed $40 in collected donations from the recent Waters True Value Ladies Night Out event. The donation is to be used for elementary students who do not qualify for free and reduced meals but may still be in need of financial assistance for the lunch program. Donations such as these mean students don’t have to miss a meal, Superintendent Khris Thexton said.
• Midwest Energy has donated $500 to be used for the Future Farmers of America club at Great Bend High School.
• Lincoln Elementary received a $500 Kansas Reading Roadmap grant from Wal-Mart.
Resignations were accepted from:
• Carrie Shinogle, first-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary;
• Blythe Murphy, instructional technology coach at Eisenhower Elementary;
• Stacy Novak, instructional English language arts (ELA) coach at Lincoln Elementary (who has accepted a job as a principal at Ellinwood);
• Gayle Skalla, first-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary; and
• Kelly Calcara, fourth-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary.
The board also accepted the retirement of Rachel McCaulley, music teacher at Riley Elementary School.
• Daisy Kraus was approved to teach first-grade at Jefferson Elementary.