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Innovations detailed in programs at R-1 schools

Friday, February 11, 2011

(Photo)
Monett High School at sunset. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
The Monett R-1 Board of Education heard reports on several programs during its January meeting.

Homeless outreach

Assistant Superintendent Julie Germann reported the district has no formal program for dealing with homeless students. A set of guidelines and procedures are in place to assist homeless students and their families.

Federal legislation gives districts more leeway in enrolling homeless students and providing additional resources, especially in identifying the homeless.

Immunization records, proof of residency and other requirements of resident students can be waived. Germann said records for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina or other natural disasters may have been wiped out or no longer easily accessible.

Monett presently has 13 students from grades four to 12 classified as homeless. Most of the students are classified as "unaccompanied youth" at high school, meaning they have moved away from their parents on their own and receive no support from family.

Building level administrators handle identification and reporting of homeless students. If additional support or services are needed for homeless students to succeed, the special services director, counselor and other administrators will collaborate on a strategy.

Germann indicated diligent education has led to a better identification process. Concern remains that the number of homeless students may increase.

Gifted program

There are currently 64 students identified as gifted in the R-1 District, reported Elaine O'Neal, special services director who oversees the gifted program. Fifty are in grades one to six. Fourteen participate in gifted activities in the middle school. Others are identified as gifted but unable to fit the extra activities into their schedule. High school gifted students participate in advanced placement courses or in the International Baccalaureate program.

Tracy Copening, the elementary gifted teacher, coordinates the one-day per week pull out program "Seaquest," and a variety of units that enrich the classroom curriculum. Students attend their gifted class for a half day or at least 150 minutes weekly, divided by grade level. Group learning activities also help with an emphasis on student driven research on computers.

Leslie Mareth teaches the gifted class for seventh and eighth graders. Students use technology "to express creativity, think outside the box and make decisions for themselves."

Students also engage in group activities that help develop personal social skills and self esteem.

O'Neal said the program is further assisted by a Gifted Advisory Council, established last year. Parents, guidance counselors, teachers in and outside of the program, the assistant superintendent and the gifted program coordinator collaborate and provide input on the program. The council will meet in April.

The council recommended raising criteria for gifted participation last spring to avoid overcrowding gifted classes. As a result, 20 students qualified for the program after 55 were tested. O'Neal said screening is currently underway for next year, though the number of students needing evaluation will be smaller this year.

Gifted students in grades four to eight scored in the top two levels of state standardized tests last year. All of the seventh and eighth graders in the gifted program scored in the advanced category for communication arts and math.

Top needs for the gifted program focused on funding. O'Neal hoped to purchase small technology items and training for teachers to enhance practices and student performance. Alternative assessment tools would also help better identify gifted students among students with English language learning issues or those with disabilities.

Technology update

Melody Paige, who is training faculty in new technologies, reported 17 educators participated in January in using Moodle, a free online program that helps teachers create tests and quizzes. Other features help students turn in papers using technology.

A three-hour session on instructional strategies identified by Dr. Robert Marzano was attended by 62 educators. Teachers brainstormed on age-appropriate technology techniques and identified three strategies that would most benefit students.

Work sessions were offered on creating effective PowerPoint presentations which 13 educators attended. Fifteen have registered to attend a session on editing video using the iMovie program. Administrators attended a session on using a website allowing teachers to download videos in advance for classroom use, thus avoiding reliance on live feeds.



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