When the Mount Airy Board of Education meets each month, recognitions are a common part of the meeting.
Those who have performed well are celebrated, photographed and held up as an example for others.
At this week’s meeting, however, the board heard from a school that wasn’t satisfied with where it has been in one subject and is taking several measures to help kids get better.
Mount Airy Middle School Principal Olivia Byerly and some math teachers discussed the School Improvement Plan for math.
Near the start of the school year, school districts get results of end-of-year and end-of-grade testing across the state.
Byerly, who moved from Tharrington Primary to the middle school in April, noted that the school overall has seen performance slip in math the past two years.
One of the teachers said the percentage of proficiency declined from 59.9 percent to 56.1, then to 53.6.
One of the main goals for the school is to get that math proficiency back up to 60 percent in the next few years.
In order to do that, the teachers are willing to try some new things.
The instructors have met with a math coach to revisit “power standards,” key learnings that will prepare students for progressing to the next grade level. The coach also talked about revising pacing of lectures and class time and about sharing resources.
A diagnostic tool called i-Ready allows teachers to not only track a student’s development, but also create individualized lessons and assignments for each student.
Teachers can have class-wide goals as well as goal sheets for individual students, said one of the teachers. And the kids are buying into this idea now that they are seeing positive feedback from using it.
Google Docs is allowing teachers to share information in real time, which has an added benefit of helping teachers track tutoring times.
The middle school has a period of time set aside at the end of the day called Innovation Block.
The teachers said that some students use this time simply to complete homework assignments, but a lot of students use the time to ask questions about things they didn’t quite understand in class. It is also a good time for teachers to schedule “intervention” with students identified with struggles in “a fluid and data-informed process.”
If a student is having trouble in math, then at the end of the regular class time the student can leave his last class and go to math for Innovation Block. Other students can transition to different subjects where they may need extra help.
The school board asked if the students are taking advantage of this program. One of the teachers replied that out of 94 math students, there have been 18-20 coming to math teachers during Innovation Block.
Board members asked how the teachers and the front office know where the students are on any given day.
Byerly said this is where Google Docs comes in handy. The document can be viewed by staff members so they can see what editing is done by the teachers on a daily basis.
Board member Kate Appler asked about kids who might have struggled on end-of-grade testing at Jones Intermediate in the fifth grade. Do the sixth-grade teachers at the middle school have access to this data?
Yes, said Byerly. In fact, the results are used to help plan well-balanced math classrooms between those who are struggling and those who are proficient.
Dr. Kim Morrison, school superintendent, said the idea for the school is to first get the decline stopped and a positive trend started. Then the next step is reaching the state average for proficiency, and then moving to above average.
The new directives are under way with six months to go before annual testing takes place again around Memorial Day. Then the school will have the newest test data before students go on summer break, according to Byerly.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.