Educators To Focus On Student Achievement

By Jane Ernsberger
Times-Junction News Editor

Administrators and teachers in the Willard City Schools have their eyes on moving up with the state grade card. Jenni Smith, district curriculum director, said those goals are a direct benefit to the students in growth and learning.

By 2017, she noted, every student in grades pre-kindergarten through grade 12 will achieve one year's growth in English Language Arts as measured by the Ohio Department of Education's approved vendor assessments or value-added reports.

"For literacy, we want 100-percent of our kids to make that one year's growth," she said. "One year's growth is not enough for some of our kids so we want to go a little higher. We want all of them to be proficient in ELA by 2017.

"That's a pretty lofty goal, but you want all of your kids to get there so we decided that 100-percent was what we were going to go with," Smith added. "We say shoot for the moon. You might land on the stars, so that's what we are shooting for. We'll take the stars."

By 2017 in numeracy, Smith said the goal district-wide is to have 100-percent of students in pre-kindergarten through the twelfth grade to achieve one year of growth in mathematics. That would again be determined with vendor assessments or value-added reports.

"With the graduation rate," Smith noted, "we want all of our students to graduate in four years from when they come in at grade nine. That's probably not the case with some of our kids, but that is what we are going to shoot for."

According to Willard City Schools Superintendent Jeff Ritz, the goal is also for Language English Proficiency for migrants. New mandates are not state-funded.

"The rules are changing for them at the state level as well," Ritz said. "And, right now, they are not going to fund us for it. We are the second largest migrant school in the State of Ohio. That's going to hit us hard financially as well."

Smith praised the educators in the local school district and what they are doing for students. Her job is to focus everyone's efforts of random acts of improvement to an aligned act of improvements, everybody on the same page going in the same direction working towards the same goals.

"However, we have a huge, huge lack of communication right now," she pointed out. "It's just getting everybody to understand why everybody is making the decisions they are making and doing that."

Principals sat down at one point, Smith said, and realized no one knew what was going on in the other district buildings. The problem, she pointed out, is getting administrators to support what is going on when they are not aware.

"We are just trying to get the administration to understand what's going on first," Smith said, "so that can carry on to the staff, then to the students so everybody is on the same page. Communication is going to be our big key. That is where we are headed."

Smith said she realized it sounded like a small goal but from the inside that goal is "actually huge."

"I think moving to the new building next year will definitely help," she pointed out. "I think we will be able to hold those discussions on a weekly basis. We will be able to keep on the same page."

Smith said the idea is to build relationships.

"When we say that, we go straight to thinking about relationships with the kids, which are definitely important" she pointed out. "I think we forget about the relationship between the staff members as a whole.

"We have to have the relationships together first, and with the kids, and it has to build on each other," Smith said. "We've got to start with the communication piece, build on those relationships and then get everybody into a positive growth mind set.

"It really, really upsets me when someone makes a comment that kid's not going to learn anyway," she stated. "Really? Yeah, they are."

Smith said one of Ritz's favorite sayings is, "it's people, not programs."

"It's what you do," she noted. "It's what you set your heart to do."

Ritz said there are a number of programs used within the Willard City Schools including STARS, High Schools that Work, Ames Web and a number of other programs. It would be easy if it just meant paying for a program that worked.

"It's not about the programs, it's about the people," he pointed out. "We've got to get our people to buy in and approve."

"If we do that, we have climbed our mountain and we will have increased student achievement in K through 12," Smith added. "That's why we are here, to increase student achievement."

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