Students, teachers and staff at Paonia Elementary School (PES) have one of the best rankings in Colorado for academic performance and improvement.
The School Performance Framework scores are based on academic achievement, growth and closing growth gaps on the CSAP.
Last year's changes in how fifth and sixth graders were taught reading, writing and math resulted in outstanding ratings. Those changes have continued and expanded to third and fourth grades resulting in more exciting results.
"The changes implemented for the 2010-2011 school year resulted in the largest yearly academic gains PES has ever seen," PES math teacher Bob Bushta stated. "Specifically, the school's One Year School Performance Framework rating in 2010 was a very respectable 82 percent. After the changes, the school's one year rating in 2011 was an amazing 96.9 percent, which included 100 percent in both academic growth and closing academic growth gaps."
Paonia Elementary received an 86.1 percent three year rating in 2010 that jumped to 91.7 percent in 2011. "The fact that they exceeded growth expectations on these Three Year Frameworks the past two years accounts for PES receiving the Colorado Governor's Distinguished Improvement Award for both 2010 and 2011," Bushta said.
Paonia Elementary earned a "B+" in 2010 and an "A" for 2011. The school currently ranks 31 out of Colorado's 1,467 elementary and middle schools.
Last year due to teachers being cut and because data showed that teachers have different subject strengths, fifth and sixth grade teachers initiated a change. Instead of two sixth grade and two fifth grade teachers, the school uses the team teaching of three teachers — Bob Bushta for math, Melissa Pizey for reading and Eileen Stewart for writing. The formula has worked so well, three teachers instead of four are teaching in the same manner for third and fourth grades. As the state rankings show, the changes have resulted in an overwhelming success in student learning. The district "I Can" statements for students, choice and individualized study has not only greatly improved grades but morale.
Eileen Stewart focusses on fifth and sixth grade writing and fifth grade science. "When we started incorporating choice, [students] could choose different topics, their enthusiasm and morale went up. They would become more invested in what they were writing," Stewart said.
Bushta added, "The 'I Can' statements for reading and writing have really helped the students achieve more, and focussed the teachers on what they should be teaching."
The students have essentials they have to master. The proof the students understand and learned the essentials is provided through three pieces of evidence. The students decide what evidence to present. It may be a poster, a skit, worksheet or PowerPoint presentation. Then the kids are tested and must attain an 80 percent grade before moving on to the next essential.
"So what happens in reading and writing, the kids are taking control of their own learning. Kids are working on standards and go as fast and as deep as they are able to. The results have just been amazing," Bushta said.
"If a kid is really struggling, the teacher is not pushing him to get to the next subject. You are helping him to learn. You may be going a little slower but he is learning better. A lot of that frustration is gone," Bushta shared.
Melissa Pizey teaches fifth and sixth grade reading. "They really love that chance to express their knowledge in their own way."
The student select how they will demonstrate they have accomplished the essential. One of the fifth grade reading essentials is "I can tell the difference between fact and opinion and support judgements made."
A writing essential example is "I know the proper times to use formal and informal language, to listen actively and hold an audience's attention."
Pizey said, "Last year was the highest reading growth we've ever had. It goes back to the kids were the ones who got to choose. It was the first year we had allowed them choice."
"It's been so exciting to let kids have a full range of exploring topics in writing," Stewart said. "Once they get more invested in what they are writing about, it just blossoms. For me as a teacher, it's easier for me too. I'm not fighting them on their writing. Many of them get very excited about writing their personal narrative."
The students share their writings with other grades which gives them added confidence.
Students are excited about the recent changes in structure and method.
Student Jonah Johnson said, "We get to go to class with each of the three teachers, and so you're not staying in the same classroom getting bored."
"You have a lot of choice," Clay Campbell noted. "You can work with many different people and you have the freedom to pick how you show your work."
Tiana Vernard likes that the teachers "are preparing you for middle school where you have to switch [classrooms] all the time."
Anika Carlson said, "None of the teachers will ever let us get behind."
Math has always been the strength at Paonia Elementary, so they continue to use the Saxon Math Program from kindergarten through sixth. The "I Can" statements are not used for math, but their grades have been stellar.
"Paonia's sixth grade math last year had the 11th best math scores in the state," Bushta said.blog comments powered by Disqus