By Steven Hoffman
A report about the effort to improve academic achievement at the Penn’s Grove Middle School highlighted the Oct. 17 meeting of the Oxford School Board.
Penn’s Grove Principal Lisa Stenz said that sustainability, shared ownership and shared leadership are components of the School Improvement Plan that has been implemented. Stenz and Penn's Grove teachers Dana Meade, Julie Myers, Andi Heinzman-Jenkins, and Katie Bish took turns explaining the work that they have done to measure progress that the students are making, and then to use that information to help students boost their academic achievement.
Meade, a math teacher, said that they look at patterns of students’ strengths to determine what areas the teachers need to focus their lesson plans on. The school utilizes multiple sources of data, ranging from PSSA results, Keystone tests, an Algebra prognosis test, progress monitoring, and Study Island, which has three benchmarks a year that can be tracked.
“We want to look at the entire picture of the child,” Meade said.
Staff members meet in teams each month to discuss how they are going to teach, re-teach, prompt, and support students. Those students that score below basic or basic on PSSA results are given additional instruction to help them improve results.
“There are lots of different reasons that students might not be doing well,” Meade explained.
Penn’s Grove also utilizes co-teaching where teachers collaborate to plan out how to teach content and provide support to students. Some students, for example, might need help with test-taking strategies. These strategies are incorporated across the curriculum.
School officials pointed to various data that shows that students are making strides. In the Keystone Algebra 1 exam, 90.9 percent of the students are now advanced or proficient. In PSSA testing, 88.1 percent of the students are scoring proficient in math, while 82.6 percent are proficient reading. The School Performance Profile found that 89.4 percent of students are proficient.
Moving forward, Penn's Grove teachers are working to continue to build students' critical-thinking skills. The teachers also want to have consistency in vocabulary strategies and to have units of study in literacy.
In other business at the Oct. 17 meeting, board member Howard Robinson reported that a Chester County Safe Schools Summit took place at Octorara High School on Oct. 14 with about a half a dozen staff members attending from Oxford.
“I’m sure they brought back some ideas that will make our schools safer in the future,” said Robinson.
The school board will meet just once next month, on Tuesday, Nov. 26. Then, on Thursday, Dec. 5, the board will hold its reorganization meeting when new board members will be sworn in and new officers will be elected. Both of those meetings begin at 7 p.m. at the Administration Building.