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School officials present plans for improving schools

School officials present plans for improving schools - Spencer Webster / The Record
School officials present plans for improving schools
— image credit: Spencer Webster / The Record

LANGLEY — South Whidbey schools continue to make progress with their school improvement plan goals, school officials told South Whidbey school board members at their most recent workshop.

The semi-annual workshop, held at South Whidbey Intermediate School last week, is a chance for the school principals and directors to detail the successes and challenges of educating students in the face of dropping enrollment numbers.

For Scott Mauk, director of Bayview School, successes included better communication with the South Whidbey High School principal about what the school is doing and about students who want to attend Bayview.

“The collaboration is increasing on a weekly basis,” Mauk said. “Conversations are, from my perspective, open and honest and are really in a vein of supporting one another.”

During Mauk’s previous

12 years at Bayview, he has not always seen that kind of cooperation.

“When we have that kind of collaboration, that allows us to do things we didn’t think we could do,” Mauk said. “It also allows us to do things that we certainly can’t do on our own.”

Mauk said there has been a 20 percent increase in enrollment this year; the number of students has jumped from 75 to 89. His budget covers only 64 students, however.

“We are really going to need some help,” he said. “It gets hard to do what we’ve been asked to do, historically.”

Mauk’s other goals for Bayview are to increase student scores in math and reading in the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL.

“My first goal is to improve math achievement and engagement,” he said. “We’d like to see math achievement as one indicator that our WASL scores go up by 30 percent. I’d like to improve reading skills by 10 percent,” he added.

“Math and reading are inextricably linked. If we improve reading, we’ll improve math,” he said.

Sharla Matthews, director of Whidbey Island Academy, has increased language arts instruction for English as a second language students.

“We doubled it, really,” she said.

Matthews also found that she had to match instruction from the eight period days that are typical in schools to WIA’s six-day period days.

“Student retention is something we want to look at,” she told the school board.

We also expanded our online offerings. That has been pretty exciting,” Matthews said.

Jamie Boyd is the principal of both South Whidbey Primary School and South Whidbey Intermediate School. While the schools are currently separate in function, Boyd told the school board that the culture is evolving toward a unified school.

“What is happening in one school is happening simultaneously in the other,” she said.

“The changes and the moves are being done in both places. We are sharing our resources and we are thinking as one elementary school,” she said.

Additonally, Boyd and her teachers continue to work on their school improvement plan.

“We are rocking and rolling on that,” Boyd said. “The building steering committees are doing that work and getting it back to their grade levels.”

The improvement plan itself is key, she said.

“It drives what we do. It is how we frame everything,” she said.

In an effort to continually evaluate students’ understanding of reading, Rod Merrell, principal of Langley Middle School, instituted classroom-based assessments, or CBAs.

“We saw some payoff of that work in last year’s WASL results, and that is the work around reading CBAs,” Merrell said.

“The teachers really learned how to target the instruction in classes based on results they were getting from the CBAs,” he said. “We saw a 20 percent rise in reading scores and we are attributing that to the really focused work on the reading CBAs.”

Merrell said the assessments being completed at the middle school could help teachers across the district.

He also said he wanted to get an eighth grade project back on track at the middle school after giving his teachers a year-long break. The project, where students focus on one study area and complete a comprehensive report on the topic, mirrors the senior project that is a graduation requirement.

South Whidbey High School Principal Rob Prosch said students are struggling with completing their projects. Giving students early experience in putting together a project was a good idea, Prosch said.

“This is the first middle school that I’ve worked with that has actually really focused on what we’re doing to get kids ready for that,” he said.

Prosch also said the high school has other challenges, such as a lack of tutors for students and the loss of electronic equipment due to theft.

He also would like to see more time set aside for the professional development for school staff.

“There is an excitement throughout the building about this; about the opportunity to collaborate,” Prosch said.

District Superintendent Fred McCarthy liked what he heard from school officials.

“I am very pleased about the school improvement plans that were presented and the direction the people are taking,” he said.

“It shows that if you go about school improvement plans in this manner, you will improve student achievement,” he said.

School board member Fred O’Neal agreed.

“It is very encouraging. I think the schools are doing some good initiatives, like the CBAs,” O’Neal said. “In instruction systems, you evaluate student achievement. CBAs attempt to give teachers information about a chunk of learning to see a student’s progress and evaluation so that teachers can teach to a student’s deficiencies.”

Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or swebster@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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