November 13, 2012

Local principals express irritation over grading system

Jessica Lane, Staff Writer,
The Express-Star

CHICKASHA — "When we started the year, we thought we were playing football, then in April, they took our ball way and gave us a soccer ball," BWECC principal, Tressia Meeks, told the Chickasha Public School board.

Meeks' creative words expressed the frustration with the A-F testing system that seemed to be felt by the majority of Chickasha principals and instructors.

District and site A-F report card presentations were given at the Chickasha Public School Board meeting on Nov. 12. Some scored a B, others a C, but all had plans to improve next year's grade.

Chickasha High School received a 3.67 GPA, which is a B. Edwards noted that the school received As in the top three sections which cover 2012 student achievement, overall student growth and bottom quartile student growth.

Edwards said that the school was not aware that students who received GEDs would be counted against them. She said this lowered the high school's score.

Another factor was the AP exam score, which 10.6% students passed. Edwards said that for 2013-2014, all students will be required to take AP test for honors credit, to receive AP credit, students must pass the AP test and U.S. History and Calculus will be seniors only classes, which will also be double blocked.

The drop out rate in Chickasha has dropped from 35 students in 2011, to 12 students in 2012, according to Chickasha High School Principal, Beth Edwards. This improvement should be reflected on the school's report card next year.

Chickasha Middle School received a 2.66 GPA, which is a C.

"I'm not anywhere happy--none of the staff is anywhere happy--with these test results," Dan Turner, Chickasha Middle School Principal, said.

Turner said that personnel has been moved around and that he feels comfortable with the current personnel. Turner said he is confident the school will see an A next year.

The reading score was a C, which Turner said the school hopes to bring up through a reading remediation course. In one semester, this course has raised an average of 40 points per student.

Attendance was another issue that made the school fall short, if it had been an A, the school would have received a B, Turner said. There were some issues with illness during the past school year. The school is taking steps to check attendance daily as well as implementing a contest between the 7th and 8th graders to bring this up.

Lincoln Elementary received a 2.32 GPA, which is a C.

Debra Ward, Lincoln Elementary Principal, said that not all the schools were graded the same way.

In every test, Lincoln scored higher than the state average. Ward said that the school did not have all the information that they needed to prepare for the test.

There were several factors. 43% of the students changed categories. Some students raised their scores as much as 100 points but didn't' change their category. Some students in the bottom quartile had as many as 30 absences. Only ten students that counted took the modified test. Many students who qualified for modified tests were not place on an IEP. The lowest quartile students also counted three different times.

"It's a score we're not proud of that our students don't deserve and our school doesn't deserve," Ward said. "It's been a moving target all along."

Grand Avenue Elementary received a 2.82 GPA, which is a B.

Kathy Wenzel, Grand Avenue Elementary Principal, said that the school is not satisfied, and that everyone wants an A.

Wenzel said that the school was "very disturbed" by the reading and math scores, which were graded F and D, respectively.

Wenzel said that reading will be the focus of improvement. A reading block for a minimum of 90 minutes is to be spent on reading instruction and practice. A literary coach, family reading nights, an attendance board and parent meetings with door prizes will be implemented. An after school and Saturday school program will also begin after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The new Bill Wallace Early Childhood Center received a 3.00, which is a B.

Meeks said that the school was not always aware of what they should be working on to improve their test score. However, now that they've been through it once, the site has plans for improvement.

Extra intervention will be given for 45 minutes, three times a week. There will be a failure-free reading room and reading RTI kits for classroom teachers. There will be a log of times with interventionists. An after school program for students will take place three times a week.

Classes with 100%  daily attendance with no tardies get a star on their class door. The class with the most stars at the end of the month get an ice cream or popcorn party. The class with the best attendance at the end of nine weeks get a pizza party. Two boys and two girls names will be drawn for $25 Walmart gift cards at the end of each nine weeks.

A new career choice curriculum class offered to Chickasha Public School eighth graders offers students a glimpse to the future of their dreams and in some cases--a reality check.

Elizabeth Ketchum, who teaches the class said "Success 101," teaches kids the steps to success by asking themselves three questions: "Who am I?" "What do I want?" and "How do I get it?"

This journey is not only educational, but spiritual as well," Ketchum said.

This new class was presented to the Chickasha Public School Board on Nov. 12 at the regular school board meeting.

Questions such as "Who am I?" train students to think abstractly and follow a higher order of thinking, she said.

In addition to planning out their dreams, the class also shows students what the lifestyle they want will cost.

"A lot of times their budget is $7,000 a month," Ketchum said, "So we have to bring that down."

The class also teaches students how to handle loans for cars and houses.

Thinking positively is another skill the class aims to teach. When the students come into the classroom, they shake hands with Ketchum and smile. Smiles and positive thinking only.

Two students from the class told the Chickasha Public School Board what they were learning.

One student said that she had always wanted to be a marine biologist. She pictured herself living in Florida in a house--with blue trim--next to the beach.

However, the student admitted she hadn't really understood what it would take to realize these dreams. Through "Success 101," the student said that now she has a better grasp on what the path looks like. She will need to make all As and Bs in high school to get into Florida State University and not skip out on higher level classes.

Another student spoke before the board about her dream to be a neurosurgeon. However, the reality of becoming a neurosurgeon is a ton of school. Willing to admit this wasn't right for her, the student discovered another dream, becoming a basketball coach.

"I'm going to go to college. I'm going to work hard and I'm never going to give up," she said.