Rowan, Kannapolis schools recognized for hard work
By Sarah Nagem
When his school doesn’t meet state and federal testing standards, Southeast Middle School Principal Skip Kraft doesn’t blame the students.
Instead, Kraft blames himself and his staff. And he’s not shy about letting his teachers know that.
“Students don’t sabotage tests,” Kraft said. “They show us what we have or haven’t done.”
At Southeast, the numbers show that teachers and students are doing at least a few things right these days. The school reached the state’s growth standard for achievement last school year for only the second time in nine years, Kraft said.
But the award Southeast received this week isn’t about complex test scores and standards. It’s about recognizing schools that are successful in reaching out to students and advancing education.
Southeast Middle and Bostian Elementary School both received the STAR award. STAR ó Schools That Attain Results ó is an honor handed down from the Southwest Education Alliance at UNC-Charlotte.
In Kannapolis, officials with Kannapolis City Schools chose Fred L. Wison Elementary for tis 2009 STAR award. The school has met federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards since the No Child Left Behind legislation was passed in 2001, school officials say.
School districts nominate their own schools to be recognized. Rowan-Salisbury School System Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom is chairwoman of the STAR committee.
At Southeast, Kraft said, students are having fun and feeling as if they’re part of a community.
“Things are just really clicking,” he said.
For the last couple years or so, students have taken the lead during their own parent-teacher conferences. Kraft said this gives students a sense of ownership in their education.
Each Southeast student has a mentor at school. Mentor-mentee teams meet twice a month to talk about whatever issues have come up.
Those kind of relationships are important, Kraft said.
“Every child is at risk, if you really think about it,” he said.
To engage students, Kraft said, the school is focusing on technology. Southeast has one of the school system’s six 21st century model classrooms, which integrate technology into lessons.
A more high-tech way of teaching is needed in every Rowan-Salisbury classroom, Kraft said, because technology is the future for many students.
“We’re trying to groom kids for jobs that have not even been created yet,” he said.
At Bostian Elementary, principal Lisa Sigmon realizes that, too.
When she attended an education workshop four years ago and learned about interactive learning boards, she decided she wanted to bring that technology here.
Now, every classroom at Bostian has a Promethean board ó a high-tech kind of chalk board that allows teachers and students to view lessons on a projected screen.
Bostian was one of the first Rowan-Salisbury schools to adopt the new technology.
“That’s the way kids learn right now,” Sigmon said.
At Bostian, which is a federal Title I school because of its high percentage of low-income students, technology plays a huge role, school officials say.
Sigmon said the school uses most of the money it earns from fundraisers for technology like Promethean boards.
Like other Rowan-Salisbury elementary schools, Bostian participates in the IMPACT program, which is designed to integrate research and technology into the curriculum.
This year, Sigmon said, fifth-graders are studying Native Americans in several classes.
Each student has chosen an animal to to research and write about, she said. In art class, kids are making totem poles that feature the animals.
In another class, they are making PowerPoint presentations about the animals. And in math class, they use number games to learn more about Native Americans, Sigmon said.
It’s a new kind of learning that puts technology front of center.
“That’s the future,” Sigmon said.
Kannapolis officials chose Fred L. Wilson Elementary School as its 2009 STAR because of its outstanding student achievement and staff collaboration.
The school has made Adequate Yearly Progress every year since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2001.
It also has made high or expected growth five of the last six years, and its achievement in fourth-grade writing and math nearly doubled in 2008.