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Stars look for ways to improve schools

Assistant principals take leadership seminar

POSTED: January 28, 2013 10:59 a.m.
Photo by Danielle Hipps/

Liberty County curriculum and instruction director Sandy Jones, left, speaks about the county’s Rising Stars graduates Thursday after they received their certificates at the Performing Arts Center.

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The Liberty County School System on Thursday celebrated 15 assistant principals who completed the Rising Stars collaborative program offered through the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement.
Liberty County curriculum and instruction director Sandy Jones said the program initially was offered to any assistant principal who wished to participate, and they attended a series of daylong workshops in addition to conducting in-school research projects aimed at enhancing classroom performance.
“The very best part of my job for almost two years has been the time spent with them, listening to their conversations, seeing them grow in the process of collaboration together, watching them get together to plan time away from school on their own …,” Jones said. “They are leaders in their own right.”
GLISI consultants Janie Fields and Pam Jackson, both with the Okefenokee Regional Educational Services Agency, advised the program. It included budget sessions with Department of Education representatives, a legal-issues conference, establishing a standards-based curriculum and addressing local needs.
The stars, who conducted their research in groups and were able to get multi-school results, presented their findings Thursday.

Improving math scores
Snelson-Golden and Midway Middle assistant principals Bernadette Crow and Tom Willoughby explored whether further professional development for faculty would enhance math skills of students with disabilities, the lowest-performing subgroup on the 2011 CRCT for middle schools.
Their goal was to reduce the percentage of students not meeting the standard by 10 percent.
The pair engaged sixth-grade math teachers and division for exceptional learning teachers in 10 hours of training. It aimed to equip teachers with skills, techniques and methods to understand students’ disabilities and to provide teachers with alternate ways to teach the same content.
According to their findings, the professional learning correlated to a decrease in the number of students not meeting the standard. At SGMS, it fell from 73 percent in 2011 to 68 percent in 2012, and at MMS is fell from 69 percent to 61 percent.
 
Rigor as a missing piece
The study by elementary assistant principals Brenda Clark, Debra Sukaratana, Vivian Gilliard, Rebecca Mock and Brittney Mobley questioned whether SWD are getting adequate rigor.
Inspiration came from Early Intervention Program students’ scores, which are lower than their peers in math. Research indicated that EIP students are not provided lessons as rigorous as their peers’.
The group offered professional learning on a standards-based curriculum, had teachers conduct classroom observations at other schools and assess the type of work being assigned. Teachers and students both were surveyed on the rigor of the lessons.  
Their goal was to increase the percentage of students categorized as operational from 66.67 percent to 70 percent from last January to May. Third- through fifth-grade EIP classes in five schools participated, and the majority of the students are economically disadvantaged.
Results indicated that the study worked, and the group suggested continuing observations across the district and implementing math competitions among elementary schools to ensure rigor is being met.

Using Math Exemplars
Another elementary group, Delores Crawford, Marti Stephens and Tamela Scharnagl, explored whether the Math Exemplars program improves problem-solving among students with disabilities.
The program, a standards-based assessment and instruction guide, provides teachers with a way of teaching and assessing problem-solving and communication skills.
The goal was to realize a 20 percent gain after tests. According to their data presented, only one group decreased on the tests: Caucasian males. Others either stayed the same or saw gains.
In their research, the women found that poor math performance among SWD is not a problem isolated to Liberty County, and that cueing, modeling, verbal rehearsal of word problems and feedback should be incorporated into the lessons.

Improving science achievement
Warnella Wilder from Liberty County High School participated, as well as the four assistant principals from Bradwell Institute.
Wilder, John Ryan, Jason Stickler, Stephanie Woods and Roland Van Horn researched assessments of science at both schools, a process that was under way for all other subjects since summer 2011.
The schools realized test-score gains for all other subjects and decided to implement common assessments in science. But the collaboration was not isolated to assessments, the team said. It also required teachers to work together on lessons to ensure meeting the same needs.
While the group projected gains of 5 percent from winter to spring end-of-course tests, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standard increased by 10 percent in biology and 4 percent in physical science, for an average increase of 7 percent.

 

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