School system rolls out new learning opportunities

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By Jennifer Caldwell

The state’s education standards are ever increasing. And while all but one of Campbell County’s schools made achieved Adequate Yearly Progress for the 2008-09 school year  Dr. Michael Martin, director of schools, and his staff have no intentions of that being a fluke.

To ensure that area students are afforded the same opportunities of their urban counterparts, Martin and his central office staff have busied themselves in recent months seeking out and equipping the county’s classrooms with some of the most innovative and progressive technology and teaching tools available.

Last Tuesday evening board members packed into the central office conference room to hear firsthand about the programs that are expected to have a substantial impact on student performance in the classroom.

In an effort to help the board understand the details of each school’s performance the group was presented a myriad of graphs outlining achievements and deficiencies broken down by school, grade level and even individual classrooms.

“Individual teachers can sink a grade level and can sink a school,” Martin said stressing the importance of being able to track student performance on required state standards prior to end of year testing.

As a way to apply a uniform method of ongoing testing for mastery of skills Martin has implemented Classworks in every 3rd through 8th grade classroom in the system.

Classworks is a computer driven program that creates individual lesson plans for each student based on performance and the new state standards.

One of the main hurdles to making Classworks succeed was having computers readily available for student use.

Martin touted the labor of Dr. Karen Bundren, federal programs director, and Jack Cannon, technology coordinator for the schools, for making the purchase and installation of 650 new classroom computers possible.

“The amount of work they have put into this is amazing,” Martin said of Bundren’s efforts to channel stimulus monies for the purchase of the machines and Cannon’s ability to orchestrate the installation and networking of them.

According to information presented by Martin, Bundren and Carla Jeffers, elementary education supervisor, the information on student progress reported to classroom teachers as well as principals should in effect allow them to predict performance on the TCAP with a high degree of accuracy.

In keeping with the first tenant of his five- year plan, which involves improving student performance, Martin has also rolled out benchmark testing for the 2009-10 school year.

Jeffers explained that testing will occur at the end of each nine week period and will be yet another way to monitor student progress toward the mastery of the state’s ever increasing standards.

“Before the teacher can return to her classroom after scanning the tests the results will be available on her computer,” Jeffers said of the instant feedback the testing will provide.

While the focus of Classworks in on elementary and middle school classrooms, area high schools have also made changes that will hopefully continue to increase student achievement.

Like Classworks, the e2020 program being utilized at both Campbell County and Jellico High Schools is a computer driven instructional tool.

According to Bundren, CCHS now has three computer labs able to accommodate 25 students per period.

The program identifies freshman and sophomore students whose TCAP and Explore testing revealed they may need a boost in algebra I and English 10.

In addition to being able to log time in one of the school’s e2020 labs, students who are eligible for the program can also access the activities from their home computers.

Bundren explained that the e2020 program can also be used to help students with credit recovery in subjects such as history as well as others.

Martin told the group his staff had also increased efforts to provide high school students with opportunities that will carry over to their post-secondary careers.

“Parents need to realize that their children can actually enter college with a semester or even a full year of college credit,” Martin said pointing to the dual credit and on-line course opportunities available to motivated students.

Bundren said that the goal of the ramped up efforts to improve student performance is to help local students be competitive with students across the state.

“We want to make sure the kids in Campbell County have the same opportunities as the kids anywhere else,” Bundren said.

“The expectation for our children is the same as those in other places too,” Martin said of his expectation for continued improvements in the county’s system.  “I will not settle for the standard that we can only do as well as we are doing.”

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