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Sikeston R-6 elementary principals give updates on school year to date

Posted Date: 11/15/2021

Sikeston R-6 elementary principals give updates on school year to date

Credit: Standard Democrat

Principals of the Sikeston R-6 School District’s three elementary schools — Wing, Southeast and Lee Hunter — provided achievement updates for their respective buildings during Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting of the board of education.

The elementary principals briefed the board on their building’s academic performance, discipline and parent involvement.

Wing Elementary Principal Alecia Jordan said to address academic interventions, Sarah Drake has taken on a new role at the building this school year.

“We thought it would be beneficial to have on person in charge of our academic interventions to help hold teachers accountable providing the interventions and it has really done wonders,” Jordan said. “She’s able to keep both me and (fellow principal) Mr. (Todd) Jenkins on top of who’s doing what and when, and it’s also really expedited our process of being able to figure out which kids need the next step, if we need to push toward the evaluation process or if we need to bring parents in to talk about possible retentions already — so we already have tons more information on our kids than we would have this time last year.”

Wing is also currently providing after school tutoring two days a week every week for 35 students, she said.

“We started the third week of September. We’ve started collecting data on those kids because we want to see if that’s correlating to what we’re seeing with academic growth in the classrooms,” Jordan said.

As far as strategies, Wing is continuing with the district initiative, “We Teach Like a Champion.”

“We chose two new strategies this year, and everyone is using them on a daily basis,” Jordan said. “One is called threshold and it’s actually more of a behavioral strategy. It’s where we stop every single student on the way into the classroom and make sure that before they cross the threshold, they’re ready to learning,” Jordan said. “Sometimes that might mean a student comes in and a teacher can tell right off the bat they’re not ready for learning, so they have them shuffle to the end of the line so they can spend a few seconds with them before they come into the classroom so they can try to help them work through whatever is on their mind. That’s been very beneficial for us this year.”

Wing is also continuing with its Missouri Model Districts training. Missouri Model Districts is a project supported by a five-year grant with a goal of improving the educational outcomes for all students, especially students with disabilities, through an evidence-based professional development approach.

“We have discipline interventions in place and have a focus room, which is going strong,” Jordan said.

Wing is also addressing social skills with monthly small groups, which are formed based on behavior data, the principal said.

Jordan said she and Jenkins attended on Tuesday their first Safe and Civil School Leadership Project training. The project is an action-research study the University of Missouri conducting, and some school districts in the area are involved in the two-year study. Involved schools also receive $500 for their building.

“It’s going to be a lot of work, but I think we’re going to have a lot of great information and strategies from it,” Jordan said.

The district also uses restorative practices, teaching students to right their wrongs, and they’ve implemented a house system, she said.

Parent involvement has been great, according to Jordan. The school held an in-person open house and had an 85% turnout of parents and family. They’ve also had a family picnic and allowed parents to attend Halloween parties this year.

“It’s so simple but it’s nice to see people in the building again,” Jordan said.

With Wing’s advisory committee, which first met in the spring, Jordan said they decided to keep the same group together this fall.

“We decided to keep that same group as long as we can as many years as we can so we can work together to make a real change in the school,” Jordan said.

Jordan told the school board it’s taking the entire village this year because as they know, substitute teachers are hard to find.

“It’s the toughest school year I’ve had in 22 years. It’s tough, and we have had to have some tough conversations, but we have lots of people who are solution-oriented so we’re going to get there.”

In discussing her building’s academic performance, Southeast Elementary Principal Abbie Edwards spoke on professional development and the work they’re doing with Missouri Model Districts.

“Our focus is continue work to with assessment capable learning, and that is where we have students who are actively engaging in their learning purpose. They know what they are; they know what’s expected of them and they’re setting goals: ‘I’m here right now. This is where I need to be,’” Edwards said.

Southeast is also working on feedback: teacher-to-student feedback, student-to-student feedback and teacher-to-teacher feedback, Edwards said. After looking at data from a previous school year, they decided this was an area they wanted to grow, she said.

“With that, I am focusing on developing teacher leadership. I have a building leadership team, and they’re taking more of an active role and looking at moving data and are helping me design professional development. They are also more involved with teacher feedback,” Edwards said.

Southeast is using the Mike Rutherford 30-Second Feedback.

“The whole premise is: if you know what somebody’s doing correctly and their instructional impact, they’re more likely to repeat that. So my building leadership team is observing other teachers, leaving 30-second feedback and helping them grow,” Edwards said. “Everybody needs more help. Everybody needs another set of eyes to help them get through, so that’s something that we’re doing as teachers and faculty and staff to help our instruction.”

Edwards said Southeast is still addressing learning loss due to the pandemic.

“We’re learning more about the concept of acceleration versus remediation,” she said. “This is something that’s not universal yet, but it is being utilized in our title math and some grade levels to where titles being used as remediation, they are pre-teaching. So, if they know they have a skill coming up, they are going to pre-teach the skill before it’s introduced in a tier 1, whole-group setting. It’s being proactive instead of reactive, and it’s filling in those learning gaps before they actually occur. It gives the students multiple exposure to the skill that they’re learning.”

Southeast also offers tutoring and has two programs: a reading buddy program where students meet one day and are paired with a “big buddy” and read books, Edwards said.

“We also have a collaboration with Fellowship Baptist Church on early-release Wednesdays. We have identified some kids that need a little extra attention,” she said. “They provide tutoring after school, and when our teachers are done with collaboration, there are handful going over to Fellowship Baptist to work with tutoring.”

New this year, Edwards said, is a building-wide reading goal, and each student has a goal they need to meet each month.

“We track it each month and have a celebration,” Edwards said, adding they also recognize those who have the highest reading growth that month.

Collaboration continues districtwide with reading and math on Wednesdays, she said.

Southeast is expanding its discipline practices, the principal said.

“Discipline is down 20% in our building from this time last year,” Edwards said. “We just went to a trauma-informed conference and are bringing some of those practices back.”

Southeast is also doing a conscious-discipline book study for one of its leadership teams and they’re trying to embrace the whole idea that the root of discipline is needed to teach.

“We are teaching the students appropriate behaviors,” Edwards said. “Each classroom has to have a calming area. All the teachers are required to have a morning meeting, or a check-in time to see if there’s anything going on with their students.”

Southeast also has a will and skill team.

“It’s a student assistance team where we come together and come up with a plan to adjust a need for our tier three students. We are using insights to behavior which helps develop behavior improvement plans,”

The school counselor is utilizing small groups, too.

“If we see issues occurring over and over, we develop a small group to help,” Edwards said.

Southeast also uses school-based therapy and has a collaboration with Southeast Missouri State University’s Autism Center at the Sikeston campus. Edwards said she’s also working more this year than previous with the district’s social worker to have home visits and reach out to parents to see how the school can help.

Southeast has also seen an increase in parent involvement and in-person events at the school, Edwards said.

Lee Hunter Elementary Principal Crystal Hartzog said Lee Hunter’s updates are similar to Wing and Southeast.

“We have tutoring also, and we have 45 students working on other skill deficiencies,” Hartzog said.

Lee Hunter is working on academic intervention. Currently, there are 13 students a day who are receiving academic interventions.

“We have content grade-level meetings every week like the other two buildings and small group instruction focus across the building,” she said. “We’re really focusing on active engagement strategies in our building.”

Lee Hunter is also part of Missouri Model Districts.

“The areas we have focused on so far are developing assessment capable learners. We focused on 30-second feedback and exit tickets, which are after you’ve taught something, you have a slip for students to fill out where you can assess really quickly: did they get it or did they not? Do they know or what do they not understand? So, you can teach where they need to be taught the next day,” Hartzog explained.

With discipline, Lee Hunter has the behavior improvement plan and lots of interventions in place, the principal said.

“We’re using a lot of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support, or PBIS, World because we can specifically come up with plans for children and it’s very kid-friendly and very teacher-friendly. We do use insights of behavior, but we also use PBIS World to help with the intervention plans,” Hartzog said.

We tarted using the shorter discipline practices this year.

That’s something a little different. It’s not necessarily about just the misbehavior but the why, and it’s making us a look at it a lot differently and it’s making a difference in how we react to things — and it’s helping,” Hartzog said.

The school has implemented the house system, which she said students are enjoying.

“There are eight houses and each house is a character trait and every child is a part of a house and it’s exciting and new,” Hartzog said.

Lee Hunter is also part of the Safe and Civil Schools project, and she also attended the first training on Tuesday.

“It’s a little like PBIS but somewhat different,” she said. “There’s a framework for establishing expectations within the building, and already I can see that’s going to be really helpful in establishing some behavioral expectations and system approach.”

Like Wing and Southeast, Lee Hunter also increased its in-person events and parent involvement this school year with successes at open house and family night along with other future events planned, Hartzog said.