Elementary schools in USD 250 had the opportunity to tell Kansas Governor Sam Brownback about ways the district is working to meet his goals for education.
Brownback visited the district office and George Nettels Elementary School Wednesday and talked with the district about the
Save the Children program, which is being financed by 21st Century grants and run in the form of after school programs at all of the district’s elementary schools.
USD 250 Superintendent Destry Brown said the district wrote the grant to be able to implement the program, then worked hard to get everything in place upon receiving the grant, which began at the end of the previous school year.
Diane Jackson, principal at Nettels, said after school the students come in and have a healthy snack, then they divide into groups and go to classes that emphasize reading, math, enrichment and healthy choices.
While every building rotates in different ways, including some that do four sessions a night and some that do two, students district-wide receive the same amount of time on each subject.
Building coordinators each reported having about 60 students, with waiting lists at some of the schools.
Brownback asked how goals and achievement are measured, and was told it is measured according to accelerated reader goals.
“I think all three of our nine-week times all of the students who attended the academy actually made their AR goals,” Jackson said.
John Farden, with Save the Children, said across the country students tend to show very positive results and can make up as much as five months of reading growth through the program.
Brown said USD 250 has been intentional about giving students enrichment opportunities through the program in addition to educational opportunities.
“Doing things that give kids experiences that they don’t normally have, perhaps due to their socioeconomic backgrounds, or whatever,” he said.
Brownback asked program coordinators what they might do differently if they were to implement the program again, and teachers said more time would be the main thing.
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Assistant Superintendent Brian Biermann said the summer program will help a great deal with more intense reading time, with six hours a day for six weeks.
“I’ve been seeing those charts where a child, when they go home for the summer, they really lose altitude on reading,” Brownback said, adding that the summer program sounds like a great idea.
“That program’s really expanded,” Biermann said.
Michelle Casey, who coordinates the program at Lakeside Elementary, said this will be the district’s first summer to really run the full Save the Children summer program, courtesy of the grant.
“We got that in before the sequester,” Biermann said.
Teachers also talked about learning strategies that might be implemented differently through Save the Children than in the traditional classroom.
“It is totally different than what we do during the day,” Brown said.
Brownback asked which students are served and was told the students are those considered at-risk by the recommendation of their classroom teachers.
Teachers spoke excitedly about plans for the program during the summer, including service-learning opportunities such as demonstrating their reading by putting on a play or working in the community garden.
Andrew Hysell, with Save the Children, thanked Brownback for his interest in rural schools.
“We are only as strong as our local leaders,” he said.
Biermann also asked others to touch briefly on other facets of the Save the Children program, and Elisa Kramer presented on her work with the Early Steps to School Success program which serves children prenatal to age five with learning activities in the home and help finding preschools.
Brownback said the results sound positive and work toward one of his objectives in office.
“One of my objectives was to get the number of fourth graders in Kansas who can read at competency up,” he said. “We need kids to be able to read. The bottom line is we want more of our kids, when they reach the fourth grade, to be able to read.”
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He talked about the implementation of the program in Pittsburg, Coffeyville and Iola and praised the efforts.
Brown said he appreciated the availability of the grant to bring the program to Pittsburg.
“We share the governor’s concern and his goal,” Brown said. “To be successful, we need to have strong readers.”