Schools, students in BG in state of change
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer
Thursday, 17 May 2012 09:48
Superintendent Ann McVey centered her state of the schools address Wednesday around the theme "Under Construction."
That referred to the ongoing renovation and expansion project at Crim Elementary, as well the dramatic changes in the ways students are taught, how their learning is assessed and how schools are held accountable for their progress.
The $4.3 million Crim project is ahead of schedule thanks to the good weather, McVey said.
The district is facing financial struggles, McVey said, but has been working to contain cost. With 82 percent of district expenses related to personnel, "if we're going to make significant changes in our budget it's most likely in the area of personnel." Since 2004 the number of teachers has decreased from 235 to 202. The number of support staff from 75 to 68 and the number of principals from 10 to eight.
Those reductions have been made by not replacing teachers who have retired or left the district.
McVey said no decision has been made about what positions opened by this year's batch of retirements will be filled.
The core of the talk centered on moves to improve education.
"Our current system is demanding too little of our students," she said. "Our students are capable of more rigor."
Now about 41 percent of those who graduate high school in Ohio require remedial courses when they reach college, she said.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress cast a harsher light on Ohio student achievement with less than 10 percent, even as low as 3 percent for eighth grade reading, scoring in the advanced range.
The state is moving to toughen standards on schools and students, though some of the moves anticipated for next year will likely be delayed until next, McVey said.
Still they are coming. Under the new ratings, Bowling Green which currently is Excellent with Distinction, the top ranking, would probably get a B.
"We want an A," McVey said. "We're working in the right direction."
Diane Tache, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the district is engaged in implementing a core curriculum shared by Ohio with 44 other states.
In reading, students are shifting their focus from reading fiction to reading nonfiction, so that by the time a student is a high school senior 70 percent of what they read will be nonfiction.
This will better prepare them for college reading, Tache said.
This reading will extend to science and social studies courses as well, she said.
A greater emphasis will be placed on research even in the primary grades. The idea, she said, is "for teachers to take the time so students read like a detective and write like a reporter."
In math there will be more focus on mathematical practices, though learning of the basics will not be left behind, she said.
Amy Scherer, the director of pupil services, spoke of the universal design for learning, which will help teachers reach all students.
"Our learning styles are as different and unique as our fingerprints," she said.
Beth Krolak, district technology coordinator, said that technology will play an increasing role in helping the districts achieve those goals.
Starting next year students grade 6 and up will be using Google Apps.
Still the high school lacks adequate resources. For about 1,000 students it has 400 computers.
To address this, she said, the school will begin allowing students to bring in their own computers to school.
In the question and answer session, McVey addressed some specific concerns.
• The PACE Program for gifted students will continue. The district is interviewing candidates to take over for Cheryl Francis who is retiring. McVey said the district was committed to the program with the caveat that if money gets so tight, programs such as PACE that the state doesn't require would be the first to go.
• The district is on track to start all-day kindergarten for the 2013-2014 school year. That's the year Ridge will close, and the district will operate three elementaries. The district expects to hire four new teachers for all-day kindergarten.
• Ridge students will stay in that school throughout the next school year even if the Crim expansion is finished early. It would be "a miracle" if the Crim addition was ready for the beginning of the school year, McVey said, and students will not be moved midyear.
• The district is dedicated to maintaining an art and music program. The only changes, McVey said, have been that band now starts in sixth grade and orchestra starts in fifth grade. The state will soon have new more rigorous standards for physical education, she added.