School officials present goals

By Wendy Byerly Wood -

Elkin City Schools has set a goal for all students to be educated through a STEAM (science technology engineering art mathematics) focused curriculum by 2018. At the same time, each of the three schools in the system has set its School Improvement Plan, highlighted with three or four goals each.

Administrators from Elkin Elementary, Elkin Middle and Elkin High schools presented overviews of their plans, which were developed by their school improvement teams, to the Board of Education during its Oct. 24 meeting.

Pam Colbert, principal at the elementary school, explained to the board that in the summer the teams gather and look at all of their data sources, from surveys to student scores, so they can have a picture of where the school is and set goals for where they should be headed.

Four goals at Elkin Elementary

Colbert said her school team has set four goals for the elementary school, with one person being named captain for each goal in an effort to keep all the goals on the forefront and not let them get lost.

The first goal is to increase the reading proficiency from 73.5 percent to 78 percent. She said some of the ways the school will reach that goal will be through providing 90-minute reading blocks, creating reading buddies and by holding collaborative meetings.

A second goal will be to increase the math proficiency from 68 percent to 72 percent. One of the key areas to help with that will be finding math resources, such as workbooks the students can take home for practice.

Goal three is to incorporate STEAM and PBL (project-based learning) into the classes’ daily lessons. This will be accomplished through SmartBoard training, teachers visiting other schools who use STEAM curriculum, sharing best practices among the teachers, creating and using MakerSpace and having STEAM showcase/parent nights.

Bullying is the focus of the school’s fourth goal, which was decreasing the number of bullying incidents occurring. The staff plans on tackling that through weekly counseling, having students take an anti-bullying pledge, making sure there are clear expectations and consequences through the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program and incorporate anti-bullying lessons. Another part of the plan is to train the staff on how to deal with bullying, not just faculty but bus drivers and others.

‘Powerful three’ goals set at middle school

Principal Casey Morrison of Elkin Middle School introduced her SIP goals noting that while the school improvement team set just three goals, they are a “powerful three.”

Amanda Burton, chairman of EMS’s school-improvement team and an administrative leadership intern with Morrison, presented the three goals the team decided to focus on this year.

Following a survey of the students, goal one is to “address both the mental and physical health issues to assess the needs of the whole child thus improving academic and social success.”

To reach this goal, the school personnel plan on providing resources to both students and parents about the mental and physical needs of all students, implement a backpack program to provide supplemental food to students who may need it on the weekends, to hold guidance lessons and small groups.

The school also will monitor students’ health needs three times a year through confidential online surveys. Morrison, when mentioning the rate of students who have at least considered suicide, said, “We have to reach that emotional need.”

The second goal for the middle schools is to improve the end-of-grade and measures of student learning scores in all content areas, with a specific focus on increasing math scores. Burton said the school plans on meeting this goal through encouraging students to participate in before- and after-school learning and tutoring, and having students keep a data notebook or display their data on classroom walls.

Goal three is to create a STEAM/PBL parent advisory board which will meet once a month on the third Monday and serve as a liaison for parents, students and the community to share what STEAM is, how it helps students’ learning and how parents and the community can get involved.

Burton said the plan is to send invitations to parents to get involved, and then the teachers will present progress and projects being done through STEAM/PBL at each meeting of the advisory board. “We want to utilize the parents as resources for materials, expertise and location in planning and implementing of STEAM/PBL units,” she said.

A QR code, which can be scanned by a smart phone, has been created to lead parents and community members to a survey on their jobs and interests if they are willing to help as volunteer mentors with STEAM/PBL units.

High school sets goals

Joel Hoyle, principal of Elkin High School, presented the goals of his school’s plan, highlighting a focus to increase scores on the WorkKeys test, parent communication and implementing STEAM/PBL at all levels and in all courses.

“One of the areas we settled on to work on was WorkKeys data, which is given to CTE [Career and Technical Education] completers their senior year,” Hoyle said, noting that the number of students taking the WorkKeys varies from year to year with 40 to 70 percent of students taking it.

In 2012-13, 90 percent of those taking WorkKeys score proficient, he reported. In 2013-14, it was 78 percent, and in 2014-15, 74 percent, which he said was still above the state average.

“With it as one of the components of the state’s ABC plan, we decided to make it a goal to increase proficiency from 74 percent to 80 percent,” said Hoyle.

“We will begin working with them as freshmen so they know what’s involved,” Hoyle said of the second goal, which is to have more participation and higher composite scores on the ACT.

“To be college and career ready, juniors have to have a composite 17 or higher score,” Hoyle said.

In 2012-13, 65 percent scored 17 or higher; in 13-14, it was 79 percent, with Elkin being in the top three in the state; and in 14-15, it was 74 percent, which still placed Elkin in the top 10 in the state.

The goal is to increase those scoring 17 or higher to 80 percent. ACT scores are part of the state report card scoring. Hoyle said the ACT also lines students up for scholarships and college acceptance.

The third goal for the high school, following a data received through a parent survey, is to increase its parental awareness and understanding of classroom activities and student performance.

More than 50 percent of parents surveyed during the spring disagree that teachers contact the parents, Hoyle reported. And 60 percent were undecided if the teachers provide STEAM through their lessons.

To meet this third goal, the principal said teachers have been asked to keep a parental contact log, and to use email, websites and parent nights to communicate STEAM with the parents. Also, the school’s weekly broadcast, which is aired each Friday, includes a STEAM update and is available on the schools website as a YouTube broadcast.

The final goal for the high school is implementation of STEAM/PBL, through developing faculty and staff implementation. Hoyle said the teachers want better clarification of what is expected of them and assistance in development their lesson plans to include STEAM/PBL.

Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.

By Wendy Byerly Wood

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