School board evaluates action plans
The Douglas County School Board and administrative staff met Tuesday night at Pinon Hills Elementary School with representatives from 11 of the county’s 12 public schools to hear presentations from the school’s staff on their individual “action research” projects.
Representatives from Kingsbury Middle School were unable to attend.
“Let’s study what we’re doing and see if we can do it better,” said John Soderman, assistant superintendent of education services, describing the goals of the action research projects.
Soderman described the action plan in steps. He said the first step is finding a focus followed by gathering data about current affairs. Finally, he said the data must be organized and an action plan developed.
“Tonight is mostly baseline data,” said Soderman. “We’re still in our infancy, but I was very impressed.
“We’ve picked a good starting point.”
“I’m very excited about this meeting,” said Superintendent Pendery Clark. “I’ve looked forward to it for a long time.”
Clark said the action research projects are a part of the site accountability committees area of the strategic plan.
“We looked at student achievement and made some decisions on how we could change or improve some areas in which we were lacking to help the site accountability committee,” said Clark. “We started this year by asking each site accountability committee to identify an action research project.”
Clark stressed an important part was as a training exercise for teachers.
“We wanted them to pick a project, not tell them,” said Clark.
Representatives were allotted 10 minutes each to present the first year’s results of individual projects. Each school chose an area where its staff felt the children who attended that school were lagging.
For example, staff from both Zephyr Cove and Scarselli elementary schools noticed a need for improvement in students spelling.
William Robison, principal of ZCES, said using spelling as his school’s action plan has meaning as it relates to children’s learning.
He said the spoken word is traditionally two-to-three years ahead of spelling as are reading skills.
Students at both schools were given a list of words for each grade level that they were asked to master. Once they hit 6th grade, teachers said they would be able to spell about 75 percent of the words in the English language.
Both PHES and Carson Valley Middle School focused their action research projects on student discipline.
“Our primary goal at Pinon Hills is not discipline,” said principal Nancy Bryant. “But, if the school does not discipline, then learning does not take place.”
The school developed a discipline form which highlights the delinquent actions of a student. If a student receives four in a 12-week period, the child must have a conference with Bryant. Each discipline form must be signed by the offender’s parents.
“It’s not all negative,” said Bryant. “We’re been proactive, too, with in-class lessons on solving conflicts.
“We’ve built a sense of community in the classroom.”
CVMS developed an in-school suspension (ISS) program to meet the needs of its action research project.
“Teachers like the program,” said Marty Swisher, the teacher in charge of this aspect of the school’s project. “Kids are working and not home watching soaps.
“Teachers and students agree, ISS has its merits.”
Swisher said they’ve found students are far less likely to have a repeat ISS than they were to have a regular suspension.
Other projects included investigation of the merits of keeping the Douglas High School Media Center open after school, use of computers to improve student’s math skills at Jacks Valley Elementary School, discipline at KMS, and block classes at Whittell High School.
“It’s exciting to see how can we improve what we’re doing,” said Clark. “This is kind of a new process.”