Tonight is our semi-annual Virtual School Community meeting where we share information about our school and solicit feedback or suggestions from our school community. Last night, I was posting our questions for discussion, and a parent immediately posted his question to the school. I remember that when I shared our results via social media, this same parent asked why our scores were so low because 32% of our 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders were not proficient in reading, and 43% did not reach the goal of 300 points for math.
I realized that a simple answer on our Facebook page would not do justice to this parent's concern. He suggested asking other schools what they were doing to get the kinds of scores they are getting. We have done that . . . when a school has done exceptionally well, I've asked the principal the question. What are you doing to get those kinds of results?
The truth is that there is no one answer. Some schools implement a school-wide language arts or math program, and others do not. Some focus on interventions, and others are just getting started with their Response to Intervention program. Some have high parent involvement and other schools have minimal participation. Some are in higher-income districts, and some have a high number of disadvantaged students. Some have a high percentage of experienced teachers, while some schools have teachers who have fewer years in the Department.
I don't believe in offering excuses; that does not help us to move forward and improve teaching and learning at HKES. But I also am aware that there is no magic bullet to solve our problems, and it could be that what works for another school is not what we need to do at HKES.
So what are we doing at HKES to ensure that our students are successful readers, writers, mathematicians, and thinkers? We are implementing a number of research-based strategies that have been successful in engaging students in their own learning. One such strategy is having students ask and answer higher-level thinking questions before, during, and after an assignment. We also continue to focus on authentic learning such as interdisciplinary units, project-based or problem-based learning, integration of technology and the arts into the content areas (e.g. science or social studies), and differentiated instruction focused on student needs. Our Response to Intervention process is well-grounded in research, and students who need extra help are identified early so they can receive the assistance they need to be successful in the classroom. Recognizing that students learn in different ways, we use manipulatives to teach the concrete, then move on to the representational model to build understanding of concepts. Additionally, we believe that students need to set goals, reflect, and assess their own work and behavior in order to improve.
All teachers are now being evaluated using a system based in part on student and teacher growth. Working hand-in-hand with the administrators and colleagues, teachers will be looking closely at student data and creating a plan so each individual child can meet or exceed proficiency on grade level expectations. We believe that by focusing on what each child needs and providing a relevant and engaging curriculum, we will be more successful in ensuring that students are ready for the next grade level at the end of the school year.
At HKES, students come and go on a daily basis. The challenge for us is to see where they are when they enroll at our school so we can ensure their success whether they continue at Hale Kula or transfer to another school when their family is assigned permanent housing. Because our school has one of the highest transiency rates, this can be a challenge for our staff!
As the principal of HKES, I am committed to providing our staff with the tools and support they need to continue their professional growth which will, in turn, positively impact student achievement. Although I agree that we need to have a system of accountability to compare student achievement, I also believe that test scores alone do not tell the whole story of a school. Through the power of social media, we keep in touch with parents who have shared their children's successful transition to their new schools - those run by the Department of Defense as well as schools all over the nation. We appreciate the opportunity to "talk story" with our parents - virtually or face-to-face. We will continue to seek input on how we can improve; parent participation is such an important component in a student's success in school!