BUFFALO — Quality personnel, community support, and new technology enabled Buffalo Elementary School to excel academically during the 2011-2012 school year according to the school’s principal.
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.
Buffalo Elementary School Principal Melissa Inman said that a variety of factors contributed to her school receiving an A from the state for its academic performance including hard work by the staff supported by the community.
“This didn’t happen in one year,” Inman said. “It’s been years of work and the efforts of our teachers, our volunteers, PTA, School Improvement Council and the support of the district administration and the school board.
“One of the things you have to have is the best and the brightest teachers,” she said. “When those doors close it’s what happens in those classrooms from 7:45 to 2:45 that make the difference. It all comes down to the teachers.”
Early and specialized instruction as well as an emphasis on educational technology have also been factors in the school’s success.
“For years we’ve been focusing on early intervention, using our learning specialist to offer specific individualized or small group instruction,” Inman said. “We’ve also had some money to offer some afterschool help, we call it tutoring.
“Something that we’ve been doing and will continue to do because it has been very effective is our literacy/curriculum coach,” he said. “She works with small groups during the day and also coaches the teachers on the best practices.”
Teachers have also played a key role in the implementation of new classroom technology.
“We’ve also been focusing on technology,” she said. “First equipping the classroom with the appropriate technology, then teaching the teacher how to use it and then having the teacher teach the children how to use it.”
One piece of technology that Inman said has been especially popular with the students are “the clickers” which she says are now being used in all fifth grade classes.
“The clickers enable the teacher to make an immediate assessment of the class,” Inman said. “Instead of pencil and paper, the children click their answers on the smart board. This enables the teacher to get immediate feedback.
“The students love it because it is like a remote,” she said. “Classroom achievement, discipline and engagement have all improved. The clickers help the teacher tailor her instruction.”
Inman said the first set of clickers were acquired three years ago and plans are to eventually have them in the fourth and third grade classes as well as the fifth grade.
In addition to the clickers, Inman said the school has added smart boards, update overhead projectors, desktop computers, laptops and iPads. Currently, the teachers in the school’s upper grades and special needs classes have iPads with many apps geared toward individualized instruction. She said she hopes to have all the school’s teachers provided with iPads by the end of next year.
The school also has two set of iPods which can be checked out of the library.
The use of computer technology will only increase when the PASS exam is replaced with the Smarter Balanced Test, much of which Inman said will be taken on computer. She said the test will involve drag and drop activities which will require the school to undergo major technological instruction in the months ahead to prepare. Inman said the school will complete that instruction and be ready for the test when it is implemented.
Inman said the school is going to continue this program and its other practices and policies that have worked so well while continuing to look at ways to improve.
“We plan to continue all that, evaluate it and add to it,” Inman said. “We want to continue doing the things we’ve done because they’ve been very effective and we want to make them even more effective and our school even more successful.”
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.