Principals at T.K. Stone Middle School and Elizabethtown High School are working on ways to improve test scores among specific student groups.
The two principals presented some of their tactics Monday night at the Elizabethtown Board of Education meeting.
Every school in the Elizabethtown Independent School district is labeled as a TSI school, which stands for Targeted Support and Improvement and is a Kentucky Department of Education designation. TSI schools are schools that have low-performing “gap” students, such as minorities, special education students or English learners.
During her presentation, T.K. Stone Middle School Principal Dawne Swank highlighted her school’s Extended School Services program, where students receive tutoring before and after school.
“We are seeing a huge increase, especially in the morning,” she said. “We can have anywhere from 40 to 50 kids in that morning tutoring program.”
Swank said her teachers are more “intentional” in finding students who may need tutoring services and mandating they attend. The school is working to improve test scores and academic performance among African American students and students with disabilities.
“If they (students) are missing homework, teachers are on it. They are getting referred to ESS,” she said.
The school also has a mentorship program led by parent David Ricks, where he mentors 8 to 10 male students. The mentorship provides social, emotional and classroom support, Swank said.
Beginning next school year, Swank said all incoming sixth-graders will have an additional reading and math class unless they choose band or chorus.
“We are honing in on the math and reading specifically,” she said.
The school also plans to expand its math tutoring program next year.
Board member Matt Wyatt asked Swank if she was seeking to hire African American teachers, specifically noting its importance in closing the achievement gap.
Jon Ballard, school district superintendent, said he has discussed recruiting more African American teachers with the district’s current African American educator staff but noted a limited amount of people apply for teaching positions to begin with.
“We’re trying to become more and more intentional,” he said. “It’s hard to even be intentional in that regard because there’s just not a lot of applicant pools out there.”
At Elizabethtown High School, Principal Jennifer Burnham said her school is working on improving the college and career readiness of African Americans, English learners and students with disabilities.
Burnham said the high school uses methods such as monitoring student progress, setting goals and tutoring.
In the near future, the high school will work on its teaching environment and strategies.
“Do we have teachers who represent all students?” she said.
The school also will take an internal look at its policies and classes.
“Monitoring and revising policies; looking at things that may be putting up barriers that we didn’t intend to put up,” she said.
Morningside and Helmwood elementary schools are expected to give similar presentations during June’s board meeting.
• In related news, the district approved about a $26.7 million tentative budget for 2019-20, the second step in a three-step process. Ballard gave a brief overview of the budget, noting it includes a recommendation for a 1 percent salary increase for all district staff along with a 1.8 to 2 percent increase based on experience. The budget also includes a raise for substitute teachers, who will earn $85 to $110 a day next year depending on their experience. About $21.3 million is in the district’s general fund.
The district will approve a working budget, the final step in the budgeting process, later this year.