When the Board of Education implemented an evaluation system a couple of years ago, part of the goal was to track student learning. The evaluations are also intended to give administrators and teachers a closer look at the culture of the school.
During the May 12 Board of Education meeting, Principal Kai Byrd shared the results of a recent survey that looked at parent participation, communication and, of course, education. “Because every year we have a new crop of parents coming in, every year, we have to acclimate new people, so communication and setting them off on the right foot is something of paramount importance,” she explained.
More than half of kindergarten parents and 20% of preschool parents participated in the recent survey. The goal, according to Byrd, was to have 80% of parents feel that always or most of the time parents are communicated with by teachers. “We knocked that one out of the park with 96%,” Byrd said. “This tells me that the work that we’re doing, building upon strategies, is working. We want to continue to do that and continue to raise the bar at Mary L.”
The principal encourages teachers to continue to communicate with parents and she sets a good example. “I’m sending personal emails to families on a regular basis. I’m in the classroom often, taking pictures and sharing them with families,” she said.
“We know our parent communication is great, but then we also want to look out our parent engagement strategies,” she said. “We have 100% volunteerism at Mary L. Tracy,” she said, but noted that some parents expressed concern over not being able to volunteer at all activities, since room parents tend to cover those events.
The evaluation also looks at the culture of the school and allows principals to set goals aimed at a safe and friendly culture. “This year we thought that one of the ways to work on name-calling and mean behaviors is to work with children on acceptance and tolerance and all of those things that we want to encourage in our students to make them better citizens, not just of Orange, but of the greater community,” Byrd said.
Each month, kindergarten students engage in a service project. Recent projects include a New Haven Reads book drive in February, Operation Gratitude in March, Pennies for Patients in April and SAFE Animals stuffed toy collection in May.
Administrators have been using STAR Early Literacy data to track learning in language arts. The goal was to have 80% of students meet the grade-level benchmark and to reach the DRA level 3 or higher. Though year-end results were not in by the May presentation, Byrd reported that according to the winter assessments, 89% of kindergarten students had met the benchmark goals and 72% had met the DRA goal. At the beginning of the school year, 45% of students met the math benchmark.
“The teachers’ capacity to instruct the students coupled with teachers’ ongoing use of the program has gotten us to 78%. We’re still hoping for 80% by the end of the year,” Byrd says. “Our starting data showed that 32% of students met goal.”
The kindergarten is involving the students themselves in a survey of sorts. MLT is the pilot school for a Healthy Lifestyles Taste Test, held on Tuesdays. In each Friday’s email blast, a description of what students would be taste-testing goes out to parents. During snack time, Byrd went to each classroom with a snack that was made in the cafeteria. As of the May presentation, Byrd reported that kale chips had been served and broccoli cheese bites were scheduled. “Everyone has an option to try it, it is completely voluntary,” she said. In a taste test of kale chips that all but one student participated in, 52% of students liked the kale chips. “The encouraging part of this is that they at least tried them.”
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent