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Mabton schools make improvement plans

MABTON - Cross grade collaborations, improved teacher-student-parent communications, and strengthening of staff training towards improving classroom instruction are high on lists of goals being examined by Mabton School District building improvement teams.

Team leaders met with the Mabton School Board Monday night to explain early drafts of their school improvement plans.

The plans, which are part of a three-year improvement study and implementation program, must be submitted to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction by March 31.

Monday's board presentations by Artz-Fox Elementary School Principal Julie Schmick and Mabton Junior/Senior High School Principal Keith Morris focused on early data collection regarding students' academics strengths and weaknesses, as well as strategies for student improvements.

The building team leaders told the board their first aim is to shore up their goals with logical rationale.

As part of the data being collected at Artz-Fox Elementary School, the improvement plan team is collecting assessment scores from all tests, explained Schmick.

"We want to look at all testing as one piece," said Schmick. "We want to see what the programs are doing and how they are challenging our students," she said.

"We also want to be able to show the actual number of students who are less than five points from passing the state WASLs," she added.

Strategies being proposed by the Artz-Fox team include increasing communication between teachers and parents, increasing the number of school-wide activities, and implementing plans to have people trained in using data-driven instruction. Artz-Fox goals also call for holding monthly grade level meetings in an effort to customize instruction to meet individual student needs.

Peer coaching, K-12 collaborations and teacher self-assessments are also among the issues being examined by the Artz-Fox team.

At the junior/senior high school, the improvement team is focused on the areas of reading, math and supportive environment, commonly called school climate.

Among the team's goals is the improvement of student motivation by improving student-to-teacher, teacher-to-student relationships, explained Jennifer LeRose, a member of the high school team.

She said the team's rationalization for focusing on the improved student/teacher relationships is based on research. "Research points toward students being more engaged in school when they know there is an adult at school who cares about them," LeRose said.

She said the supportive environment team hopes to begin building a foundation for the improved relations via a myriad of avenues, including teacher-student surveys, journal entries and shared activities for teachers and students.

She said one way this might be accomplished could be through academic excellence assemblies or through other types of personal success assemblies and classroom acclamation.

Brett Simpson, who is team leader of the math portion of the secondary building improvement team, said his group is collecting data regarding student development and growth in the area of math literacy.

He said, for example, the middle school level teachers are researching student math scores as far back as fifth grade to determine where gaps may have developed. Simpson said the team is also seeking to increase math communication by examining the instructional weaknesses.

"We will also be using both WASL and other tests to monitor student improvements and other areas in need of instructional intervention," he explained.

Her team's portion of the building improvement study is still in a draft form, said Mabton Junior/Senior High School English Teacher Tamara Steen.

Steen said among the reading team's strategies will be to increase reading through parental involvement, via homework hotlines, increased utilization of a literacy coach to improve classroom instruction and aligning of all reading and writing requirements across the curriculum topics.

Steen said teachers have to be passionate about teaching reading and writing. "We have to do a better job of teaching kids," she said. Steen said reading, listening and writing are all related and must be addressed in all subject areas.

The reading team also has set as one of its goals the increased utilization of existing technologies for expansion of students' literacy skills.

"Programs such as the accelerated reading programs are helping students to improve their reading and writing skills," she explained.

"We have begun to share our enthusiasm and we are seeing improvements," she added.

A lot of the areas being examined by the three high school teams overlap, explained Robin Washam, the high school building improvement facilitator.

Washam, who is working with the high school teams, is a school improvement plan specialist from the state OSPI. She said working with the Mabton Junior/Senior High School staff has been "wonderful."

"They have already established student achievement mission statements. We are only in the preliminary discussions, compiling data, research and developing actions plans," she told the school board.

"It's a big effort to pull together all of the threads. Everyone here is very committed," she said.

The building improvement teams meet each Friday afternoon to work on the various components of the improvement study, said Kevin Chase, Superintendent of Mabton Schools.

The next steps in the school improvement plan will include creating steps for implementation of goals and ongoing monitoring of the plans, Chase said.

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