Extra credit: Grant to help Medora schools improve grade

MEDORA

Medora’s first-year principal already is working

to raise the junior-senior high school’s state accountability grade.

Since August, Chrystal Street has set aside time during the school day and after school for students to work with teachers. The goal is to improve performance at the school, which has received a grade of F in four of the past five years.

More help could come

from a $125,000 School

Improvement Grant through the Indiana Department

of Education. The grants

go to low-performing Title I-served schools.

The goal of Title I is to

reduce the achievement

gap between low-income students and other students by providing them with supplemental education.

Street said the goal of

the grant is to increase academic achievement.

“We want to bring our scores up,” she said. “We want all of the kids to grow somehow. We already have many, many great programs in place, but this extra money will just only add to what we’ve been doing.”

Early in the school year, Street received an email from the Indiana Department of Education about the grant opportunity. To be in the running for the one-year grant, schools submit an application that fulfills each of the federal Department of Education’s Turnaround Principles.

According to the department’s website, “The funds are designed to support school improvement plans that take a new, innovative and systematic approach to improving student achievement and school quality.”

Schools were put into categories based on the number of consecutive years of failing or making F on Indiana’s accountability system.

After receiving four straight F’s, Medora Junior-Senior High School moved up to a D for the 2013-14 school year, so Street thought it was important for this grant to target Grades 6 through 12. The elementary school went from a D to a B.

Street recently learned the school received the grant. She shared the news with Superintendent Roger Bane and school trustees during a meeting this week.

During that meeting, the board approved hiring Kirstie Pumphrey as a Title I parent involvement coordinator. She already works part time at the school as a preschool aide.

“It was just a nice transition for her just to stay during the day,” Street said. “She’s already familiar with the system, went to school here, so she is going to help us with the parent involvement part.”

Street said Pumphrey will reach out to parents in a variety of ways.

“The research shows that parents who are involved in their children’s education tend to have students who do better academically,” Street said. “We’re really going to try to reach out to parents through phone calls, newsletter, social media. We’re going to try some different things with that.”

Trustee John Hughes asked Street if Pumphrey would be going into homes and meeting with parents.

“Sometimes, we send letters, and they don’t get home,” Street said. “We have kids who are falling behind in some schoolwork, and it really just takes another person who can call home.”

Street said having

Pumphrey visit homes is a good idea and could be considered.

The grant also will be used to hire another instructional assistant and two full-time teachers for language arts and math.

Supplemental language arts instruction throughout the day and after school will be a main target for the middle school level since the scores were “incredibly low,” Street said.

“I also will give some of my staff people some supplemental money if they stay after school to help with remediation type things,” she said.

Street has budgeted $14,000 of the grant for professional development. The money will help pay for substitute teachers while teachers receive professional development.

“From what I’ve found with the teachers, there are a number of teachers who haven’t been outside this area and kind of need to see what’s out there,” she said. “If you don’t know what’s out there, you don’t know what to bring to our students.”

Medora staff members already have worked with Department of Education and National Center for Families Learning officials.

“(They) came in and taught the staff a reading strategy that we are going to teach the parents, so that they can use the strategy with their kids at home,” Street said.

That training event is planned for January.

Remaining money will be used for remediation supplies, and Street is looking into possibly providing transportation for students in the after-school program.

Before receiving the grant, Street had started several remediation programs for the junior-senior high school. Those include a 30-minute period during the school day in which students are pulled out to get some extra support and an after-school program where kids work on skills they struggle with.

She earlier discussed looking at offering peer tutoring and remediation before ISTEP+ and end-of-course assessments.

“We’re making some

progress,” Street said. “It’s taking some time, but we’re getting there.”

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.