MONARCH — The continuous gathering and analysis of data to track student progress and the ongoing professional development of its teachers is how Monarch Elementary School excelled academically during the 2011-2012 school year and how it plans to continue to do so.
During a visit to Union County earlier this month, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Mick Zais presented charts drawn up by the State Department of Education rating the academic performance of schools and school districts in 2011-2012 based on poverty levels. The poverty level among Union County’s students was 80.4 percent in the 2011-2012 school year.
Each school and each district on the charts was graded for their performance with grades of A, B, C, D, and F.
In comparison with other districts with similar poverty levels, Union County scored a B for academic performance.
Within the county, Buffalo, Foster Park, and Monarch elementary schools and Lockhart School scored As for their academic performance.
Zais praised the school’s for their performance, saying it confirmed his belief that poverty is no barrier to academic achievement.
Monarch Elementary School Principal Anita Maness said the school’s success is due to a combination of professional develoment on the part of its teachers and staff and the use of data to gauge student performance.
“Professional development is one area we believe in here at Monarch,” Maness said. “We have book studies that our entire staff is involved in to learn up to date procedures to use with our students.
“We also have a data room that we can track each individual student’s progress at Monarch and also give additional help to students who are struggling,” she said. “Each teacher has a data notebook they keep all testing and all information on each child in their classroom and use it to track each child’s progress.”
Maness said the data room, which is also known as the Professional Learning Room, is where the school conducts all of its book studies for its teachers. The walls in the room are lined with charts that Maness said help teachers track their students’ progress and determine how best to address their academic needs.
“There are reading text levels for every child and these tell the teachers what reading level each student is at,” Maness said. “We’re looking to see if a student is reading at grade level or below grade level. If we see a student is not making progress we can bring in additional help.
“Every child in our district is MAP tested and we used that data to track student progress from fall to spring,” she said. “We also have our PASS data for students in the fourth and fifth grades. These charts let us know the overall areas that we need to work on if additional instruction is needed.”
Other elements in the school’s success are its Save the Children in school and after school programs which helps the students with reading. Another element is its literacy specialists.
“We have strong literacy specialists/coaches that work with students and teachers,” Maness said. “They also have guided the professional development of classroom assistance in the district.”
Maness said the school has also benefit ted from the strong support by the district administration which she said holds administrators and teachers accountable for student learning.
Improving student performance in other areas and preparing for new academic standards are also priorities for at MES.
“One area that Dr. Zais talked about was science, talking about we needed to do more in that area,” Maness said. “We have two teachers, Rhonda Hollingsworth and Ginnie Ponder, who attended the Phil Mickelson Math and Science Institute in New Jersey. They will be leading professional development in the area of science.
“Another area is our Common Core Standards,” she said. “We are doing lots of professional development about these standards and aligning it to our curriculum. In ELA, math, science, and social studies there will be national standards, not individual state standards anymore. We have teachers and administrators who have attended statewide meetings on this and shared the information with other teachers. We have also partnered with Clemson University and Winthrop University which has provided training for us in math on the Common Core Standards.”
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.