Brownstown principals share school improvement plans



From standardized test scores to attendance rates to parental involvement, school leaders always are looking at ways to improve.

During a recent Brownstown Central Community School Corp. board of trustees meeting, the three building principals lined out their school improvement plans for 2018-19.

Elementary Principal Chrystal Street said she had received ISTEP+ scores a day before the meeting, and she was preparing to delve into them.

“When I started (in 2016), we had 18 interventions, and we would have to go do work on every single one of those,” she said. “We consolidated it down to five, and that helped us and saved time.”

Street said she wants to implement a comprehensive language arts curriculum to help with standardized testing performance.

She has asked the teachers to focus on “I can” statements for math and language arts lessons. The kid-friendly phrases relate to the standards and include academic and testing vocabulary.

“My philosophy is if the kids can use it in class, once they get to the ISTEP test and they see it on the ISTEP test, it just rings a bell for them and they will do much better,” she said. “That’s one thing that we find is when kids get the test, a lot of times, it’s not that they can’t do the work. It’s they are hung up on the vocabulary, so we’re working on that.”

The elementary also will focus on providing a safe and disciplined work environment so kids want to come to school, which ultimately will help improve attendance.

“Kids can’t learn if they aren’t at school, so we try things to get the kids to school, and every year, we want to try something a little bit different,” Street said. “I hope that this next year, we might be able to make some more phone calls, maybe try to get some parents in and encourage kids to come to school because we all know that is important.”

Before Street arrived, she said parental involvement wasn’t one of the school’s goals. Now doing open houses and Title I events, the school is providing opportunities for parents and kids to get involved.

Another idea is to have evening meetings for parents to receive tips on how they can help their kids or look at data.

“It’s hard to pull in parents, so we feel like we’re constantly, ‘What can we do to bring them together?'” Street said. “We were successful in bringing parents in with our color run and some other things that we have. We just want to make that (involvement) a goal.”

Middle school Principal Doug McClure said he has his eyes on ISTEP results, too. At a quick glance, he said there was a slight bump in both English/language arts and math scores.

“I’m excited about that,” he said. “There’s still room to grow, for sure, but it looks like some of our interventions that we’ve been using already have started to pay some dividends.”

He said he would like to incorporate a couple of programs to expose students to types of questions they may see on the standardized test. He wants staff to do that at least twice a week in their instruction.

“I think that gives them exposure to the types of questions that they can expect but also the rigor of the questions,” he said.

The middle school also recently adopted new language arts, social studies and science textbooks. Those come with online resources, too.

“We’re excited about the fact that our teachers are going to be exposed to some of that,” McClure said.

Like the elementary, parental involvement is a priority at the middle school. McClure said this summer, the pillar committee is looking at ways to make that happen, and an additional administrative assistant was hired to focus on parent outreach.

“Whether it’s some type of parent night or the newsletter beyond just the regular school blog, we’re very, very excited for the different things that we have going through our committees,” he said.

At the high school, Principal Joe Sheffer said it’s hard to track data when the tests for graduation change every year.

The week before the start of the 2017-18 school year, he said they were thrown a curveball when the state said a general diploma no longer would count for a school’s accountability grade.

So the goal is to increase the number of students who receive Core 40, academic honors and technical honors diplomas.

“It has always been one of our weaknesses is we give lots of general diplomas, but our test scores are really high,” he said. “I attribute that to teachers teach to the standards, teach the curriculum and take very much pride in teaching the curriculum that’s there, and if the students can’t do it, they get a general diploma. It puts a little more pressure on us now that it’s not going to count for your school grade in the future, so that will be our main task next (school) year.”

Sheffer said creating an Algebra II honors class and a regular Algebra II class should help.

“The difference between a general diploma and Core 40 is pretty much Algebra II and chemistry,” he said. “A lot of our students just can’t do Algebra II, so we created two classes, and in the future, you’re going to see a little bit more tweaking on how we’re going to do that.”

Continuing to offer Project Lead the Way helps students earn a technical honors diploma, Sheffer said.

He also said they keep track of Advanced Placement and academic honors students.

“We like to know which students get an academic honors diploma by taking two or more AP classes or not taking any AP classes at all,” he said “You don’t have to. You can do some dual-credit requirements, so we want to track the higher-end students, as well.”

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