HARRIS - Elementary students at Bark River-Harris have experienced a successful start to the school year, and school officials are hopeful their academic achievements will continue through the implementation of a few new programs and changes this year.
According to Bark River-Harris Elementary School Principal Kelly Harvey, recent reading assessment scores at the kindergarten through sixth-grade level are at an all-time high. Students are tested in literacy three times a year to ensure students are at grade level, or benchmark. If not quite at this benchmark level, they are assessed every two weeks to make sure they are making the gains they need.
The goal for the entire district is to have 80 percent of all students or higher at benchmark.
"Typically over the summer you see a little dip, but coming in, our fall assessment scores were the highest we've ever had in literacy," she said. "At the end of last year, as a building, we met our 80 percent goal and they've come in in the fall at that level so we're in a different spot now this year."
This positive news near the beginning of the school year allows teachers to focus less on interventions with students not at benchmark and more on enrichment activities, according to Harvey.
The district hopes to replicate its success in reading in the area of mathematics.
"We started a new assessment for math now that will be three times a year to screen our students, just like we do with reading," she said. "To increase math scores, we're going to be starting math interventions in classrooms and support will go in our highest need areas."
The district is also trying to get students more actively involved in understanding the school's goals in reading and math and promoting it more within the building.
Soon elementary students who need a little extra help in math can take advantage of a new after-school tutoring program at the school, made possible through Bark River-Harris' partnership with the Delta County College Access Network (DCCAN) and Bark River-Harris Lions Club.
Through the after-school tutoring program, which will take place twice weekly beginning in November, 30 students in grades three through six will be tutored by three teachers and several high school National Honor Society students.
"We're very excited to start that program," said Harvey. "We're just finalizing the details of the high school students, but we will be starting in November, identifying our students and getting the parent permission forms."
Also new this year, elementary teachers have been "meeting and greeting" students as they come in from recess, escorting them to their classrooms in an effort to increase supervision and decrease behavioral problems.
"That has reduced our behavior referrals - just that time in the hallway, the teacher's presence, increasing that supervision, standing outside their door - during those transition times," noted Harvey.
The use of iPads throughout the district in recent years has also been a positive change at the elementary level. In the past, iPads were piloted in several classrooms throughout the district, but the elementary now follows a slightly different model of using the technology.
"We've taken all of the iPad mobile units...and we've sectioned those out now so we actually have five iPads in each classroom," said Harvey.
The use of iPads in the classroom has allowed for differentiated instruction and can be shared across grade levels in the event a class uses more than the five allocated for that particular classroom.
Teachers have also been able to incorporate the iPads into their classroom management.
The use of the new technology has been well received by students.
"The students are very engaged while learning," said Harvey. "They're actively participating and involved. Basically it's another tool to increase that engagement."