UNION — Academic programs and interventions designed to help students who excel and those who are struggling and parental involvement in reading and writing have been crucial to the academic success of Foster Park Elementary School in 2011-2012 and are part of its plans for continued success.
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.
Foster Park Elementary School Principal Barbara Palmer said student academic performance improved in 2012, both as a whole and among its historically underachieving groups.
“We’re showing progress, we’re showing gains, both overall and in our historically underachieving groups, our minority, our free and reduced lunch, our special needs students,” Palmer said. “Our minority groups, for example, increased from 65.8 percent meeting or exceeding standard in math to 72 percent in 2012. We went up overall with 45.1 percent of our students scoring Exemplary in ELA (English/Language Arts), that’s the highest level. In schools like ours it was 36.8 percent. Our growth rating on the school report card went from good to excellent.”
Palmer said these improvements have been achieved through programs the school has implemented to provide students with additional instructional opportunities tailored to their needs.
“We have Save the Children, which is a grant,” Palmer said. “It has an after school component and an in school component and its primary focus is ELA.
“We also have what is called Academy Time,” she said. “We assess each student to determine what kind of classroom environment they need. For example, children that perform exemplary would need to go to a class where they can be challenged. Children needing remediation would go to remedial class. This is for 45 minutes each morning.”
A program the school implemented this year is the “100 Book Challenge” which Palmer said gets students’ parents involved.
“What it does is it starts children off with vocabulary and some basic reading strategies,” Palmer said. “The teachers work very closely with the parents. They’ll send books home for practice with the parents. Then they have reading in the classroom. It creates a lot more involvement for the parents. The children also receive awards for each level they increase. We have children in kindergarten who are already reading beyond the expected end of the year level.”
Another program the school has implemented is “Response To Intervention” which Palmer said bring teachers together to determine how best to help students who are struggling academically.
“Response To Intervention is where our Intervention Committee meets once a month to discuss any student who is not reading the expected material for that level,” Palmer said. “At that time we decide what other interventions we can put in place for that student.”
The information used by the committee to make that decision is collected by the teachers.
“Our teachers keep a data notebook on each child in their classroom. They keep all of the classroom assessments, MAP tests, PASS tests and daily reading levels in the notebooks and bring those before our Intervention Committee,” Palmer said. “We just really believe in knowing each child.”
The school also has an After School program funded by Title I. Palmer said a retired elementary teacher comes in four times a week and works two hours each day with students how are struggling with reading or math.
Palmer said the school will continue to work to improve student performance, not only through the efforts the faculty and staff, but by continuing to get parents more involved with their children’s education.
“A piece of what we’re doing involve the parents,” Palmer said. “We have Family Writing Nights where parents come and writes with their child. Our big focus this year has been on writing and we feel having the parents involved really helps their children.”
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.