VIEWS: 7 PAGES: 50 POSTED ON: 8/2/2011
7 Part III – EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Building toothpick bridges…theorizing C.S. Lewis…launching hand-built rockets and building a Japanese Garden. Where education was once limited to stale math dittos and alphabet incantations, Oak Grove students are opened to experiences some might consider exclusive to prestigious private schools. Families are moving to the area with the singular intention of having their children educated at Oak Grove School, and the ripple effect is seen in our flourishing community. Education takes work. A lot of gutsy, innovative, flexible planning by our teachers and administration makes Oak Grove the excellent learning institution it is. Without the mutual aid of our parents who surpass the simple definition of volunteers, our school would not realize such success. At Oak Grove Elementary School, our teachers spend hours beyond their paid week to collaboratively plan and polish instructional techniques and delivery. They tutor, talk with families, integrate objectives across subjects, and comb through the latest education research. Raising their hands high with an “oh! oh! oh!, choose me!” enthusiasm, our students vie to ask questions or volunteer answers - they love learning. Walk the halls of Oak Grove and you will see dozens of parents reading aloud in the classrooms, organizing books and supplies, tutoring children who need extra help, and sharing ideas for school improvements with the administrative staff. Walk through our nature trail and you will spot neighbors, even those whose children are grown, weeding and watering. Come hear a visiting community speaker or attend a fall festival. Oak Grove is a linchpin to our community. Every day, we live our school motto, “Working Together to Exceed Expectations.” Something unique to Oak Grove, our students set the standards for very high achievement. We are not a magnet school, by definition; however, we do draw families to our school where the culture is one of expected success for the broad spectrum of students from special needs to gifted. It is a tricky act, to spur on the high achieving student yet to help other students keep up and set their goals ever higher, and thrive. At the same time, our self-contained special needs students, who are all mainstreamed into at least one class with the general student body, need services and remediation to accomplish even greater milestones. Our 488 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade include 120 gifted students, 77 students receiving special services for various disabilities (autism, speech and language disorders, mild and moderate intellectual disabilities, and specific learning disabilities), and even a few who are both gifted and in need of special services. With roughly 40 percent of our student population at either end of our diverse spectrum of student needs and abilities, we place a priority on working together collectively to exceed expectations. Oak Grove was planted firmly in the community about 40 years ago. The middle-class neighborhood grew with Atlanta, where farmhouses were intermixed with suburban houses and became a bustling metro community. Residents include families whose grandparents lived in the neighborhood, to younger two-career families, who are attracted by the school’s reputation for academic excellence. New mini-mansions are springing up and people are paying the rapidly escalating housing costs in part to attend Oak Grove School. Consequently, the socioeconomic make-up of our students ranges somewhat widely, with many from modest middle-class backgrounds to a relatively newer population of higher income families. Diversity is multi-faceted – race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, giftedness, special needs, and religion. We feel proud that our students represent the best about America. Teamwork is important to us. Often, African-American students and white or Asian or Hispanic students puzzle together over projects. During the holidays or special drives, students donate gifts or other items for the more needy. And every day in every class, students help other students with assignments or volunteer as “buddies” for special education students. Exemplifying good character is a vital part of molding children into productive citizens. They are “Working Together to Exceed Expectations.” We are the models our children will follow, and we recognize this responsibility. At Oak Grove, leadership builds from collaborative planning. The Strategic Planning for School Improvement (SPSI) committee drives the goal-setting process. This is a school where the SPSI committee has the weighty 8 task of reviewing standardized test scores, such as the Iowa Test for Basic Skills (ITBS). The SPSI committee sets goals for improving weaker areas, and assigns Action teams that include every faculty member, as well as selected parents, to set objectives for accomplishing those goals within a reasonable time frame. For example, ITBS scores suggested that students needed stronger math computation skills. As a result, the solution is a program that blends the critical thinking skills in “new” math with the arithmetic foundations in “old “ math. Teachers communicate regularly to coordinate grade-level activities and projects, integrating subject matter across the curriculum and vertically across grade levels. Last year, teachers invested nearly 900 out-of-school hours on school improvement issues; reviewing scores, and brainstorming solutions for improvements. The staff functions as a cohesive team, whether the setting is formal or informal. Eleven years and forty-thousand delicious, homemade biscuits later, our Friday morning breakfasts - cooked by our principal and master baker, Mr. Tippins - have given teachers the opportunity to problem solve and share ideas while enjoying his wonderful generosity. In addition to granting funds for curriculum needs, our PTA provides massive support to teachers and administrators on a daily basis. Without their help, our innovative plans would not materialize. There is never a struggle to find parents who will coach our winning Science Olympiad team, photocopy class assignments, chaperone field trips, organize monthly Teacher Appreciation functions, raise funds and lead clubs. We instituted two innovative programs to help student reach their highest potential: 1) Collaborative Teaching Model – classroom teachers work with gifted teachers to implement enrichment activities, and 2) mainstreaming students with special needs to develop academic and social/life skills. We continue to build heavily on the basics, with an emphasis on reading skills. If schools could leave legacies, our contribution would be the love of reading. Students start every day with an open book in our Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) program. We brought in classic and contemporary literature by starting a Literary Guild and stocked each classroom with mini-libraries that include Guild selections. Writing is another critical skill, and teachers maintain classroom writing portfolios for every student. Few schools can boast of their “published” students; seeing the pride on a child’s face when they see their words in our annual “book” of each students’ best work. In science and social studies, we abandon staid methods and search for ways to demonstrate these elements through dynamic simulations. Metamorphosizing caterpillars, bubbling earthquakes, Civil War stories and pioneering lessons…these are the methods that enthrall our students and teach them at the same time. In math, students are given real-life applications to puzzle over in problems of the day and of the week. Finally, as we enter this millennium, our children have the task of being technologically savvy to keep up with the times. We are proud to be a pilot school for a wireless laptop lab where students learn to master their computer skills and experience the wonders of the Internet. Oak Grove’s special needs students each have their own Individualized Education Plan (IEP) outlining objectives for learning life skills and community pre- vocation. Whether they are mainstreamed or in self-contained classes, we have our own version of inclusion; each special student is paired with a “buddy” from the fifth grade. Buddies help the students at arrival and dismissal as well during school events such as assemblies, bowling or the Fun Run and Special Olympics. At the Special Olympics, our special education students hear the trumpet call to Olympic glories and come out winners. Keeping our promise to students, we provide an environment that promotes academic excellence, fosters the unique abilities and self esteem of each and every student, and instills the belief that life is enriched by diversity and learning. 9 Part IV-VISION MISSION STATEMENT The faculty and staff, administrators, parents, students, and community of Oak Grove School believe that high academic and behavioral expectations yield higher results. We achieve that by teaching to higher standards for all students, regardless of ability. Our belief is that these high standards and expectations will benefit the students as they grow to adulthood and touch the lives of others. The faculty and staff at Oak Grove strive to facilitate life-long learning by setting the example themselves to continuously want to learn more. We are not content to remain idle and teach the same lessons year after year. Many teachers stretch the limits of their own knowledge by seeking higher degrees, attending conferences, and participating in staff development opportunities. With the insurgence of knowledge that is now available via the Internet, we realize we must instill the joy and importance of life-long learning in the students. The trio of home, school and global community all influence the development of an individual. We recognize and appreciate the valuable asset we have in our supportive parents and community and understand we are in this together when it comes to developing the character and minds of our students. In turn, our students quickly learn the importance of striving to set good examples for the younger and less able students to follow. On any given day, you will see parents or other community members volunteering their time to work with a class or perhaps an individual child. Likewise, older students are often seen reading to younger children or helping children with special needs. Meeting the needs of all 488 students can be a monumental task, but we believe that is our responsibility at Oak Grove. We strive to offer a variety of instructional strategies through our inclusion and enrichment practices to address the individual needs of each student. We work constantly to nurture the students academically and emotionally by showing them love, kindness, and respect and helping them to feel they have a safe and caring place to learn. Summarizing our philosophy and vision for what we believe a school should offer, we live by the following mission statement for Oak Grove to: (1) facilitate the learning process in a nurturing, supportive, educational environment that recognizes and appreciates diversity, (2) implement a variety of modalities of instruction for all children, and (3) maintain high academic and behavioral expectations in the pursuit of developing lifelong learners. We strive for excellence so that when our students move on to higher grades, they have the confidence and skills to achieve their highest potential. Our ultimate goal: to generate students who are not only prepared but excited to foster life-long learning in others. We work diligently to keep the student in our focus and make wise decisions with their best interest in mind. 10 Part V - LEARNING-CENTERED SCHOOLS CRITERIA A1. How would you describe your student population? What are your students’ needs? How do you assure the needs of all students? Now in its fourth decade, Oak Grove Elementary once educated the grandchildren of the area's dairy farmers. As the years passed and Atlanta grew into a bustling metropolis, today's Oak Grove student population is comprised of mostly stable, upper middle-class households. In most cases, families are two-parent households where at least one parent is a professional, and the other parent may be a stay-at- home or a part-time worker. With Emory University, Centers for Disease Control, Coca-Cola Company and CNN among the major employers, many of our students have parents with post-graduate degrees. Oak Grove students are raised knowing the value of a good education. High achievement is integral to many of our students' lives, as is their desire to exceed expectations. Teachers plan a number of enrichment activities in the curriculum, and although the Discovery Program serves the gifted students, “gifted” strategies are a part of every class so that all students may benefit. Oak Grove also has a sizeable group of special education students who share the desire to reach new heights. Facing a variety of students with disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism, and other challenges, we are committed to help them meet those goals. This 16.2 percent of our population is mainstreamed in as many activities with other students as possible. Tailoring teaching strategies to address the individual needs, interests and abilities of various student groups is one method Oak Grove teachers use to protect "time on task". The administrative staff is sensitive to students' need for uninterrupted class time. Predictable class schedules and unbroken momentum helps to capitalize on treasured “teachable moments”. Throughout the day, teachers seek innovative ways to foster creativity and create curricular integration. In the classroom, students function in large groups because working cooperatively with others is an enjoyable way to collaborate with peers and see the world through another's eyes. Flexible grouping in classrooms ensures that students receive more individualized instruction. Classes are heterogeneous and class size, averaging twenty-three students, is minimized to state standards. We periodically test and assess throughout the year to determine students’ strengths and weaknesses and to monitor whether special services are appropriate. Enrichment activities are not options but necessities, because Oak Grove’s many high-achieving students require and request extra challenges. Teachers adapt these enrichment activities to every student’s level of ability, and the assistant principal for instruction monitors the enrichments by previewing lesson plans, observing and collecting the activities in an Enrichment Notebook. The spectrum of needs at Oak Grove is vast, from our special education students, to our average and at-risk ones, as well as our gifted students. Students with below-average achievement work on objectives related to concrete skills. We help students who need additional support with literature programs such as Accelerated Reader and Literary Guild, designed to improve reading skills, while having fun doing so. The faculty and staff maintain an awareness of students’ needs through a variety of assessments. (1) Holistic evaluation of the whole child: A student’s portfolio, which contains samples of work from students’ academic histories, reflects the many facets so important to learning. (2) Standardized test scores, such as the ITBS, which are among the highest in DeKalb County: Each year, we review testing scores for areas requiring improvement, then develop a plan to improve those areas. (3) Formal and informal academic testing: Students frequently receive one-on-one feedback on their test performance and receive any additional assistance they may need. Some students necessitate extra attention from the Student Support Team (SST), which designs individualized strategies. IEPs map out individualized objectives and assessment plans for students in the special education program. 11 Teachers plan and implement a curriculum that adopts an array of strategies and methods to advance both cognitive and affective learning: multimedia, hands-on practices, speakers, field trips, and special projects. Here, students are encouraged to express their concerns, make suggestions and work together with teachers. Town meetings are forums for parents to collectively offer suggestions and voice concerns for the purpose of improving our school. Students, parents, and teachers make time for dynamic, interactive learning; we work together. A2. What non-academic services and programs are available within the school to support students, and how do they relate to the student needs and school goals identified? For parents to entrust their children to our care for six-and-a-half hours a day is an act of faith, and we acknowledge our responsibility to nurture the whole child, not just his/her mind. Guidance: Each year lends itself to new personal and social concerns amongst the students. Self- esteem, anger, peer interaction, grief and stress are pivotal issues for young children. Our school counselor regularly visits classrooms to teach coping skills on these life issues. She projects an approachable atmosphere where teachers, parents, or students often receive individual counseling. Students know they have a safe, caring place to go when they need extra support. All students participate in drug awareness programs, including "Red Ribbon Week" that serves to bolster students' resolve to resist drugs. Health: One of our Partners in Education, Children’s HealthCare, delivers classroom instruction in bicycle safety, healthy food choices, fire safety, dental health, safety when home alone, and safety from strangers. In addition, children undergo routine screenings for vision, hearing, and scoliosis. A bus safety program is presented in to our Pre-kindergarten through first grades to teach them the rules and procedures for safe bus riding. Parenting: The YMCA cares for children of working parents in after-school programs. Under the guidance of trained YMCA counselors, students learn to manage homework time, use play for relaxation, interact with peers, and cope with differences of opinion. In a popular parenting fair sponsored by the PTA, experts discuss parenting, discipline, communications, learning disabilities, and so on. On the first Friday of the school year, families and staff gather in a relaxed atmosphere for a Potluck Picnic, an event for new families to mingle and for old friends to reconnect. February brings our Family Dance where kids and their parents enjoy a spirited evening of fun, food, fellowship and a chance to giggle at their teachers' awkward Macarena attempts. In May, all students, and parent volunteers, look forward to Goin' Loco in the Grove, our rousing Field Day where emphasis is on participation rather than winning. To lessen performance anxiety, students have an opportunity to practice the events they choose to participate in for weeks prior to the big day. Special education: At the Special Olympics, special education students can get a taste of true Olympic glory. They enjoy the festivities at the annual Oak Grove Fun Run and the school. In March, an entire week is dedicated to the celebration of their successes with “Exceptional Children’s Week”. A3. How does your school determine and address the developmental needs of students as they move from grade to grade? “Ready, set, go!” The keyword: “ready”. Oak Grove helps children get ready to embark on learning by taking a preventive approach in their early schooling. Readiness includes ruling out health concerns through immunizations and hearing, vision and dental screening. Academic readiness also takes a prime- time role at Oak Grove. Pre-kindergarten students: These young children get ready for kindergarten with the help of a specially trained pre-kindergarten teacher and a paraprofessional. Monthly parenting sessions help bridge the gap between home and school for their children. A good breakfast is a crucial element to learning, and Oak Grove serves a delicious balanced breakfast program. Kindergarten students: Each Spring, day and evening “Kindergarten Round-ups” give an opportunity for excited - and perhaps a bit apprehensive - children and parents to tour the school, meet their teachers 12 and administrators, munch on cookies and enjoy an engaging story by a professional storyteller. Soon after the children begin school in the fall, teachers administer the Georgia Kindergarten Assessment Program (GKAP) and Basic Literacy Test (BLT) while observing the students to determine individual readiness, abilities and accomplishments. Special needs students: Students who need help in speech/language or reading attend small classes with the speech and/or reading specialists. Teachers and local high school students tutor students after- school and trained volunteers help out in the classroom with students who need remediation. Limited English proficient students: The DeKalb Schools’ International Center screens students who have limited English proficiency and provides an orientation class prior to their entry to Oak Grove. Students who need continuing assistance will be assigned an English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher. Although few Oak Grove students fall into this category, those few are encouraged to participate actively in school activities, and receive great support from the staff and their classmates. We also have a parent volunteer dedicating her time to tutoring ESOL students and bridging that academic gap, exceeding expectations. Special education students: In a unique “Buddy” program, our fifth graders help special education students during field trips, school events, and Special Olympics. In addition, Safety Patrols pair up daily with these students during arrival and dismissal. Parents and teachers write an IEP specifying goals and instructional strategies for learning readiness, modifications, and other transitions. These plans follow them as they move from grade to grade and from school to school. New students: We try to help the “new kids on the block” feel welcome and capable by pairing them with peers to guide them through the early days. The school counselor meets with each new student and his/her records are reviewed to determine if they need placement in special programs. Students transferring from within the system are placed as indicated by the former DeKalb County School. Teachers systematically evaluate new students through observations, achievement testing, formal and informal testing, parent-teacher conferences, and the SST, if appropriate. Additional assessments include the Baseline Evaluation Group Inventory Test (BEGIN) and the BLT for accurate reading placement. Graduating fifth grade students: The transition to middle school can be daunting, for the children as well as their parents. We take steps to help ready them for the independence of middle school; for instance, fourth and fifth graders are departmentalized and move to different classrooms with different teachers. During the fifth grade year, families attend informational programs and workshops presented by Shamrock Middle School. As our fifth grade students near graduation, teachers help students with their first semester schedule, encouraging feedback and parental involvement. Student Support Team (SST): SST is the process for supporting the academic, social, and/or emotional needs of a student. Teachers and parents can refer a student to the SST. Once referred, the areas of concern are discussed amongst the committee, which consists of the school counselor, school psychologist, teachers and parents. Strategies to address the concerns are developed, documented, and implemented. The group reconvenes periodically to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies and to make any needed changes. A4. What co-curricular activities are available for students and how do those activities extend the academic curriculum? Despite the dismissal bell, school and learning do not end at 2:55 p.m. We encourage all Oak Grove students to participate in extracurricular activities, and over 60% of students do so. After school, the arts are well represented by tuition-based classes (coordinated by students and parents) from the Alliance Theater, the Spruill Arts Center, piano instruction, clowning, playwriting, chorus and story-telling, all of which are taught by professional artists. The Science Olympiad and the Academic Bowl offer students extra coaching for competition. The Viking Wrestling Club is held at the neighborhood high school for students, eight years old and up. It is held at the neighborhood high school and parents are required to accompany their child. Other after-school activities include 4-H, chess, math/science, and computer clubs (C2). 13 School community activities include: the monthly Skate Nights, the annual Art Night, Fun Run (to raise money for the Special Olympics), Science Fun day, and “William’s Walk” (G1). The annual Talent Show is quite a learning experience for the students... and the audience, whether their talent is whistling a tune or playing a violin. Our Fall Festival is a carnival orchestrated by fifth graders who man the "bean bag toss" booths, help kindergartners play "go fish" for prizes, paint faces, and sell sugary goodies. During school hours, fifth graders take charge in the Student Council and also participate in band, strings, or chorus. Every fifth grader proudly bears the responsibility of being a Safety Patrol. A5. How does your school address the accessibility of its facilities to students and others with disabilities? Oak Grove is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and has demonstrated its commitment by making its facilities highly accessible. Handicapped drivers have designated parking spaces near the front entrance with a ramp from the parking lot to the front doors of the school. The district office provides specially equipped buses for the safe transportation of our physically disabled students. The school has ramps at the entryway and in the halls, specialized seating and desks, modified bathroom facilities and drinking fountains, and modified playground equipment. Students and others who use walkers or wheelchairs move freely throughout the school. Itinerant physical and occupational therapists visit the school regularly to work with students. The speech/language pathologist works with the 45 students who have speech and language needs. B1. How does the culture of your school support the learning of all its members and foster a caring community? At Oak Grove School, every student and staff member has a voice and an opportunity to express his/her ideas and opinions equally. ”Open door/open mind” is the policy of our administration, and is therefore the policy of the entire staff. At the beginning of the year, each teacher reviews classroom rules and asks the students how they might prefer to enforce or even modify the rules. Teachers and students determine how to acknowledge and reward good behavior. Many of the teachers implement various group reward systems such as success chains, a paper chain in which a loop is added any time the class is complemented on its respectful and proper behavior with rewards given when the chain reaches determined lengths. All students are invited to participate in a survey requesting their input on ways to improve our school. One survey response led to our policy of using green, yellow, and red cups at each table to positively monitor noise levels in the cafeteria. Students have 100 percent participation through representation on the Student Council, which meets monthly to discuss school rules on behavior and discipline. In addition, the Student Council also sponsors a monthly breakfast for good citizens from each class. The principal prepares the breakfast and recognizes each student. We recognize our responsibility to Oak Grove students extends beyond the basics of math, language arts, science and social studies. Character education is equally important to these students who are daily exposed to role models on television and in sports that often fail to demonstrate admirable character traits. We are dedicated to providing a stellar education for these future leaders so they may be goal- setters, to have the confidence and character that will help them realize their dreams. Under our tutelage, Oak Grove students will often hear the three Rs: Respect, Responsibility, and Random acts of kindness. “Grover’s Great Traits” are word-of-the-month character traits that are emphasized and integrated throughout the curriculum. Parents who volunteer to read during the daily DEAR time are provided with stories that demonstrate the designated monthly trait. "Grover's Angels" is a new program whereby students pledge a small monthly donation, no more than one dollar from their piggy banks, to contribute to a fund for Oak Grove and nearby families facing insurmountable needs. Last year our students also participated in a coat drive for a North Carolina school that was devastated by flooding. Students participate in various role-playing and creative writing assignments that relate to “Grover’s Great Traits”. 14 In this rapidly changing society, exposure to the basics of good character is a foundation to help our students become successful adults. “Do not stand in the way of people who do good work” is an informal motto of Oak Grove’s principal. The Strategic Planning for School Improvement Committee (SPSI), comprised of administrative and faculty members, is education democracy at its best. The committee develops annual goals based on the ITBS results and other school needs. Action Teams of teachers are formed to address the school needs outlined by the SPSI. One such goal led to the creation of this year’s modified block scheduling which allows every grade level common horizontal planning time (C2). The committee felt that collaboration and brainstorming were ideal ways to support, encourage, and enhance one another. Teachers decide what textbooks and resources to teach from and choose the types of workshops they desire for staff development. At the county level, the faculty serves on committees for textbook adoption, curriculum revision, and planning. The faculty and staff also select our representative to present suggestions at monthly, district-wide, teacher forum meetings. They also administer Profile for Assessment of Leadership (PAL), which is an evaluation of the principal and the assistant principal of instruction. Teachers complete a form requesting preferred teaching assignments for the coming year. B2. What opportunities do students have to build sustained and caring relationships with teachers and other adults? How does your school promote a healthy peer climate among the students? When walking the halls of Oak Grove, there is no question our faculty and staff love children. From the principal, to the school secretary, to the custodians, everyone knows the names and faces of every child in our school. They take it upon themselves to remember siblings’ names as well, to ask about a new pet, to wish them luck in weekend soccer games and comfort them when they are sad. Visitors to our school often comment on the warmth and old-fashioned hospitality apparent here, despite the fact our address is Atlanta. Birthdays are announced each morning, accompanied by a special treat from the counselor and another from the cafeteria staff. Teachers stay in touch with families and students who have left Oak Grove. Our older students love to read to and correspond as pen pals with the younger grades, giving those young students special attention. The media and technology specialists frequently check out books for children without having to ask their names. Our custodial staff can often be found helping students and serving as wonderful role models. Oak Grove’s climate is one of unity and cooperation. Our school’s theme, “Working Together to Exceed Expectations”, begins with students, faculty, and staff, then fans out into the community. We stand proud on our theme and on our collaborative working relationships. Very few schools have the tremendous outpouring of parent involvement that we enjoy. Oak Grove parents show their love for all of the children in innumerable ways. Every day you will find dozens of parents reading aloud during DEAR (Drop Everything and Read), coaching the Science Olympiad, tutoring at-risk students, and leading the computer club, chess club, Talent Show, Literary Guild, and others. Parents enjoy speaking to classes about their fields of expertise, interesting trips to foreign countries, and cultural or historical experiences (such as a Holocaust survivor). They chaperone field trips, both day trips and overnight ones. Students acknowledge their appreciation of those efforts by individual thank-you notes. Through an anti-bias curriculum, open-mindedness is emphasized through observances such as Black History Month and Exceptional Children’s Week. With these lessons, we stress the many important contributions made by each aspect of the diverse culture in which we live. To highlight these observances, the Oak Grove cultural arts committee organizes speakers, cultural assemblies, and field trips to create an awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity. Field trips included visits to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. House, Morehouse College to view the Queen of the Nile exhibit, the High Museum of Art for the Picasso exhibit, Emory College’s Michael C. Carlos museum for an exhibit on Egyptian artifacts, the Cyclorama for Civil War history and the Alliance Theatre to experience the theatrical production, The Life of Harriett Tubman. Teachers and parents sometimes bring in foods or music of a different country or culture. Our foreign language and art teachers center many of their lessons around the variety of cultures represented in the world today. One of the most exciting moments 15 in our school comes when our special education students, along with their fifth grade “Buddies”, head out to the Special Olympics. On that day, as they proceed to their buses, every faculty and staff member and student lines the hallways to show their friendship and support and cheer them on their way. In summary, the most important lesson we may teach them is that within this celebration of our differences is the realization that we are all so much the same. B3. How are teachers hired in your school? How are teacher assignments made? A strong school reflects strong teachers. The DeKalb County Public Schools System does an excellent job of recruiting qualified teachers for interview at the individual schools. Oak Grove’s principal and assistant principal for instruction interview the applicants and make recommendations according to the strength and expertise of the applicant. Hiring of new personnel and teacher assignments are carefully planned. Teachers are assigned to teach in their area of expertise, therefore, when a position becomes available the applicant must match this area of need. Our specialists in music, art, physical education, and Spanish were chosen because of their extensive knowledge and experience of their subject area. The principal views the opportunity to select faculty and staff members as his most important task and spends endless hours recruiting, interviewing and calling references. B4. What is your school’s plan for school safety, discipline, and drug prevention? What is your record for the past five years? Oak Grove is a safe school, though we all remain vigilant for the unexpected. We have developed a comprehensive school safety plan for the purpose of creating an environment that is orderly, free from weapons, drugs, violence, harassment, and intimidation from students, employees, parents, and visitors. All visitors to the school must enter only the front doors, sign in at the front office and put on a badge designating his/her name and where they will be visiting in the building. Every classroom has a call-back system that enables a teacher to have immediate contact with the front office. In addition, every administrator, custodian, and the physical education teacher carry walkie-talkies at all times. We want our children to be safe outside of school, too, so our Partner in Education, Children’s HealthCare, teaches our children about fire and bike safety, and staying away from strangers (A2). Oak Grove Faculty has been trained in first aid and several are trained in administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The school year begins with a review of our safety policies to ensure that every faculty member, student and parent is aware of our expectations from the onset. One component of our school safety plan is the DeKalb County Student Code of Conduct brochure students receive at the beginning of the year. After a classroom discussion, students must pass a test on its contents. This brochure is then sent home for the children to review with their parents, and must be returned with signatures from both a parent and the child stating they have read and understand the contents. Students also receive a letter describing our local school-wide behavior plan, which allows every student the opportunity to earn positive rewards. It includes a daily conduct classroom plan and weekly inventory of work and study habits and conduct. Problems are handled promptly and discreetly, with minor discipline problems prompting a conference with the student involved to remind them of our behavioral plan. If the conference does not resolve the problem, then parents are contacted, first by phone, then a conference is scheduled. In the event our school experiences a natural or man-made emergency or disaster, we have implemented an Emergency Preparedness Plan. Each staff member has been assigned a specific responsibility and areas have been designated to house anyone who might come to inquire about the status of students, faculty and staff. Students have practiced the emergency procedures as well, with periodic fire and tornado drills and “intruder alert” lockdown. Oak Grove is a drug-free school with specific programs that deal with drug awareness, one being the curriculum "Safe & Drug Free Schools". In this program, students learn how to make good decisions when faced with difficult situations. This 16 drug awareness program also includes Red Ribbon Week, a time when students pledge their commitment to abstain from drugs. Faculty, staff, parents, and students organize and implement ways to support a drug-free environment. Examples include pledges to stay away from drugs, slogans, posters, songs, and photographs. The media center provides books, resources, guides and videos for parents and students. The DeKalb County Board of Education prohibits the sale, possession, or use of drugs including alcohol and tobacco on school premises. Oak Grove School is located in a No-Tolerance Zone and the county’s penalties for possession are stiff. We believe that our methods have been very effective. During the past five years, we have had zero incidents of drugs or weapons on our campus. Additionally, less than two percent of our student population has been involved in serious discipline situations, the most serious of these being only three separate fights that were immediately resolved with three-day out-of-school suspensions. We are proud of our record, but are never complacent in our search for ways to improve. C1. How does your curriculum serve the broad goals for student learning and development that the public generally expects education to achieve: personal and intellectual growth, citizenship, and preparation for work and higher education? What relative emphasis do you place on these goals in your curriculum? If Oak Grove's vision were fully realized, in our desks would sit the next Maya Angelou, the next Walter Cronkite, or a Jonas Salk. We have tremendous confidence in these students and in their ability to raise the ceiling of expectation. Our vow is to provide the personal growth tools these students will need to go forth into society with an awareness of and confidence in their ability to improve our world. We assert again and again, our school places great value on reading. We know that through reading, students expand their minds and worlds. Reading opens the door to life-long learning through books and articles. For many of our students, their only opportunity to visit other cultures and countries comes through books. Reading becomes their passport to appreciating and understanding diversity. To emphasize our commitment to reading, the whole school participates in DEAR each morning. Teamwork is another fundamental concept throughout Oak Grove’s instruction. The corporate world pivots on being able to work as a team, so many of our class projects require students to work cooperatively. In their excitement, students teach one another basic facts, but also the important lesson that they must be responsible and do their best because the team relies on them. Teachers facilitate the teams so the students learn to work together successfully. In early grades, students are assigned their team roles, which consist of the reporter, the supervisor, and other roles, including the very import role of “encourager.” So important is this concept of working together that our school’s motto is “Working Together to Exceed Expectations”. Students learn about the world of work through positive adult role models. In their lessons, for example, teachers point out role models from literature or history, and guest speakers are invited to describe how and why they chose their professions. Students at Oak Grove learn how they can be responsible, caring citizens by helping others in need. Our innovative “Buddy” program teams up students with those who are disabled. All of our students work together as "Grover's Angels" to help families in need (B1). The philosophy at Oak Grove is that a student who feels good about him/herself will feel good about others as well. We provide many opportunities for each student to feel special and accomplished, while encouraging them to strive to do even better. Recognition of being a good citizen is a coveted award at our school. Each month, a student from each class is selected for displaying positive citizenship qualities and is invited to have breakfast with the principal. Each semester, outstanding students are awarded citizenship certificates. Basic skills are covered each day as we enter into the character education realm. We focus on treating others as we would like to be treated, using stories, role-playing, and various forms of media to show examples of admirable character traits. Another part of the non-academic skills we support comes from our guidance, health instruction and parenting assistance. Each month, the school’s physical 17 education teacher distributes a “homework” sheet that encourages families to participate in physical interaction to encourage healthy activity for the whole family. Our PTA, with the assistance of our guidance counselor, sponsors the annual Parenting Fair where experts are invited to discuss a variety of pertinent parenting topics. Special education provides our special needs children with the support they require. As an “Inclusion Project School”, we embrace and meet the challenge of educating our students with special needs within the general population. We introduce them to the general curriculum, modifying when necessary through the collaborative efforts of the general and special education teachers. Trips to the grocery store, instructions on riding public transportation, learning how to order food in restaurants, and other day-to-day activities are ways to strengthen their basic life skills. If learning could be mapped, the roads would look a lot like the convoluted turns of Atlanta’s famous Peachtree Road. As the “traffic directors” at Oak Grove, we maneuver the students through the curriculum so they will meet the objectives and arrive at their destination of promotion. To facilitate this smoothly, the teachers assess students at the end of each unit, and then use the assessment to decide what skills need reviewing. All these different situations involve the honing of the skills needed for making responsible choices. The triangle of participation, the faculty and staff, the student and the parent, all participate in these activities enhancing their abilities to judge situations fairly and informatively. C2. How is your school organized to provide for differing student academic needs within the school’s goals, priorities, and curriculum? Oak Grove faculty faces a rare but wonderful challenge: we have a large population of highly talented and motivated students coupled with a large percentage of students with varying disabilities, embraced through inclusion in our regular education program. Teachers at Oak Grove must tailor their teaching strategies and learning objectives to the diverse needs, interests and abilities of students or groups of students. To serve these needs, varying class structures are offered. We integrate students' teaching strategies from our regular, special, and gifted education programs based on individual needs and abilities. We offer a specialized curriculum, as well as after-school enrichment activities. We work together - our programs are intertwined - we exceed expectations. Scheduling: The Master Schedule has been designed in a modified block format so that Spanish, art, music, P.E., Media Center visits, and counseling classes are taught during a “Specials” block of time each day. This was created to allow for expanded, uninterrupted time-on-task in core curriculum and special area classes. In addition, it provides each grade level common planning time. General, special education, and gifted teachers are able to plan together weekly. Class Organization: Teachers must be careful to keep classes fast-paced and challenging because so many students are high achievers, while simultaneously tending to the needs of average students. With some personal assistance, these average students enjoy a range of enrichment activities, stretching themselves to high levels of performance and pride. We offer every student a chance to reach his or her highest potential by offering the High Achiever’s curriculum to all students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The kindergarten through fifth grade students use Oak Grove's Flow Room, a resource room full of activities to stimulate higher-order thinking skills, problem-solving strategies, and special interests. Students learn while enjoying playing logic games and analytical computer games. To add further challenge and benefit to the curriculum, Discovery teachers (our gifted education instructors) offer services weekly to all regular education students through collaborative teaching and inclusion practices (A1). School organization: The school is organized to meet the entire range of student needs, from special education and at-risk students to average and gifted students. Students with below-average achievement work on objectives related to concrete skills (C1). The remedial math and reading programs serve students who need additional support. 18 Student placement: At the end of the school year, teachers in each grade level meet to discuss placement of students for the upcoming school year. Kindergartners are administered the GKAP at three intervals during the year. The first, taken within the first two weeks of school, identifies each child’s readiness and gives the teachers direction for the child’s individual program. The second is in January to track their progress, and the third is at the end of May. At that time, if expected objectives have not been met, considerations are made for remediation or retention. In Kindergarten through third grade, students are assessed at the beginning and end of each year using the BLT through the Reading First program. This ensures correct placement based on the students’ abilities and needs pertaining to reading skills. As the testing process for each grade level proceeds through the school year, each student is evaluated for gifted services. During our last academic year, approximately sixty students qualified for and entered the Discovery program (C3.). Extension Activities: All Oak Grove students, of all races and ethnicities, are invited to get involved in enrichment activities according to their interests (A4). Science Olympiad: Fifteen fifth graders and five alternates compete at regional and state competitions. To prepare for this, they participate in rigorous study sessions and science-related projects. Social Sciences Fair: Every fifth grade student submits an entry in the school’s social sciences fair. Students learn researching, referencing, writing, and displaying techniques. Winners participate at district and state levels. 4H Club: Open to all students, this club covers agronomy and animal studies. Computer Club: Parent volunteers, with the help of the technology specialist, teach children to use the keyboard, access programs and save files, play games, use electronic resources, and generally become comfortable with exploring computers. Chess Club: In a high-participation activity, students learn and practice chess playing skills. Last year, the Chess Club members were Georgia state champions in the Elementary School division. Media Festival: Students create their own productions, whether audio, video, or computerized, and participate in a countywide competition. Alliance Theater, Spruill Arts Center, and the Music School: These local groups bring music, drama and art classes to students every week after-school (A4). Talent Show: Every student may audition to participate in the talent show (A4). Literary Guild and Accelerated Reader: Reading and Literature is a gift for everyone. Reading is strongly encouraged at Oak Grove through these programs. Spelling Bee: Each 4th and 5th grade class holds a spelling bee to send its winner to the grade- level spelling bee. The winning student then represents our school at district, continuing on to state level. Through this collaborative effort between our school and community, we encourage learning beyond the classroom. Our students have demonstrated success in these endeavors and have felt the thrill of victory. All competitions have seen our students win at district and regional levels and, at times, state level. C3. How do you ensure that diverse learners (for example, students with disabilities, gifted and talented students, students with limited English proficiency, migrant students, and students placed at risk) have the opportunity to learn challenging content and achieve at high levels? Currently, 79 out of our 487-student population are being taught within our special education program under an IEP. All students who have disabilities, limited English proficiency, or are at risk, participate in the regular education population through the inclusion process where highly trained teachers and paraprofessionals assist them. The entire faculty participates in ongoing staff development on the teaching and inclusion of special education students in the regular classroom. As a result of these collaborative efforts to provide as much inclusion as possible, Oak Grove has recently been named an “Inclusion Project School”. As stated earlier, all students in Kindergarten through fifth grade are taught 19 using the High Achiever’s curriculum and are exposed to challenging collaborative activities by the Discovery and regular classroom teachers through our inclusion model. (A3) Disabilities: Oak Grove meets the academic needs of students who have physical disabilities, moderate or mild learning disabilities, and behavior disorders. These students are placed in the least restrictive environment, ranging from self-contained special education classes to complete mainstreaming in a regular classroom with a paraprofessional. Students attend self-contained classes for Mild Intellectual Disabilities (Primary I, Primary II, and Intermediate). When designated by their IEPs, students receive physical and occupational therapy. Our self-contained special education students participate in inclusion activities during physical education class, with several of them participating in other subjects, such as math, social studies or science classes. The special education department also has a teacher for an interrelated resource program that serves students with specific learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disorders, mild intellectual disabilities, autism, and other health disorders. Of the twelve students serviced by our interrelated teacher, eight of them participate in full inclusion classes in the core curriculum. The other four are serviced outside of the classroom for short segments of their instructional day. Gifted and Enrichment: We are unique in that our school uses a collaborative model for gifted and talented students. With average scores on national standardized tests generally in the upper 80th and lower 90th percentiles, our students demand an enriched, fast-paced, and interactive environment even in the regular classrooms. Teachers work with our Discovery program teachers to include enrichment activities. The Discovery program accepts children who qualify as gifted and talented under the guidelines issued by the Georgia Department of Education. Currently, 120 of our 487 Oak Grove students qualify in three of four areas: 96 percent or above on IQ test; 90 percent or above on achievement test; 90 percent on creativity test; and 90 percent on motivation instrument. These students are served through a pull-out cross-curricular program and collaborative teaching model with the regular classroom teachers. Limited English proficiency: ESOL resource teachers are available to help students with limited English skills. They work with small groups of students until they are proficient with the English language. They provide instructional strategies to teachers to assist the students with learning objectives. At-risk: Teachers’ instructional materials and curriculum guides describe modifications that can be made in the curriculum and activities in order to be better tailored to the needs of the at-risk student. Each week SST meets to modify curricula for the at-risk students in general, as well as any individual student who has more unique needs. Teacher Cadets, students from neighboring Lakeside High School, visit in each classroom to tutor. Programs such as the Early Intervention and Remedial Education boost students in reading and math. C4. What is the process for continuous curriculum renewal at your school? What questions about curriculum is your school currently addressing? Through a collaborative process that includes continual input from the administration, teachers, students, and parents, Oak Grove is “Working Together to Exceed Expectations” in the area of curriculum renewal. The SPSI committee, also known as the Leadership Team, is the driving force behind instructional goals. The principal and assistant principal for instruction make decisions for curriculum renewal based on many factors, including Georgia’s and DeKalb County’s mandated curriculum objectives, current research, along with input from teachers and parents. These decisions are then submitted to the Leadership Team to decide on the best method of implementation. Goals are developed based upon: data from test scores, informal assessments and surveys of the teachers, parents, and students, the success of various programs, and the identified school needs. (F2) Through our SPSI process, the Curriculum Development Action Team addresses curriculum renewal and implementation. This Action Team has recently implemented the High Achievers Program for K-5 and Reading First for K-3. Staff development, selection of resources, and the evaluation of the effectiveness of these programs are issues that are continuously cycling through the Principal, Assistant 20 Principal for Instruction, Leadership Team, Curriculum Development Action Team, individual grade level meetings, teachers, and parents. The Reading First program has had an extremely positive impact on Oak Grove’s teachers and students. In addition to providing valuable resources in the classroom, the teachers have gained additional skills in teaching phonics and reading comprehension through professional development, and by training in the administration and evaluation of the Basic Literacy Test (BLT). The BLT has served as an effective guide for pinpointing specific deficits and strengths in the reading skills of each student. This test has also helped parents in providing support at home that is directly related to the needs of the students in reading. We have seen an improvement in the reading comprehension scores on the ITBS in grades 1-3 that we believe is the result of the skills taught in Reading First. We are in the process of implementing thematic teaching, which will make instruction more meaningful to the students by aligning all of the subject areas and allowing the students more discretion to emphasize their interests. This training focuses on teaching the different learning modalities such as visual, verbal, kinesthetic, and technological. It also focuses on Bloom’s Taxonomy and reminds teachers to teach the higher level thinking skills such as Synthesis and Evaluation. This professional training will be ongoing this year during teacher workdays, Staff Development days, and grade level meetings. We have invited Ms. Carolyn Coil, a renowned international trainer who has trained thousands of teachers on this process, to provide staff development in this area. C5. Successful schools offer all students opportunities to be engaged with significant content. How does your school ensure that students achieve at high levels in the core subjects? As stated before, Oak Grove’s motto, “Working Together to Exceed Expectations”, is truly indicative of our desire to see that all students are high achieving. To that end, we feel we have created a core curriculum that not only sufficiently meets the state’s requirements, but takes our students - each year - beyond the realms of their prior capabilities. Language Arts: Listening, speaking, reading, and writing are the foundations of human interaction. At Oak Grove, we impress upon students the vital need to have superb language arts skills. The Oak Grove curriculum emphasizes language arts and integrates language arts skills into other subject areas. Teachers that are departmentalized in fourth and fifth grades, work together to plan the language arts program so it is linked to other subjects. The first through third grade teachers are self-contained, and they incorporate language arts activities into other subjects. The textbooks were chosen for this purpose, so the language arts anthologies correlate with the other core subjects and the teachers’ guides provide lesson plans that enhance these objectives. We tell our students that “reading can take you anywhere”, and we have strong, dynamic programs to support that assertion. From the beginning of every school day, when every child in the school is either reading or listening to literature in the DEAR program, until bedtime, reading is the byword. We further induce the love of reading by combining it with the joy of reading on a plush, comfortable sofa; so, in our media center, students can lounge with their favorite books in a corner that has an inviting, home-like atmosphere. The Media Specialist meets on a weekly basis with each class sharing resources from the library pertaining to topics that correlate with the current classroom curriculum. Close communication between and Media Specialist and teacher make this possible. Our PTA shows their support by helping us create mini-libraries in each classroom, so that when a student has a few extra moments, he can pick up a book. Just in case a student needs even more motivation, we bring in reading incentive programs such as Accelerated Reader (funded by the Reading First Grant), Literary Guild (sponsored by our PTA), the “600-minute Club” (sponsored by Six Flags Over Georgia) and “Book-It” (sponsored by Pizza Hut). Oak Grove students read not only to gain language arts skills, but also for pure enjoyment and pleasure. The curriculum complements reading with assignments that builds listening skills (through storytelling), speaking skills (through oral presentations of a book review or a creative writing assignment), and writing skills (through book reports, daily journals, and creative writing assignments). 21 Never let it be said that Oak Grove students are seen and not heard! Teachers work carefully to teach our students effective speaking skills. First, students learn how to talk about themselves and how to ask and answer questions in class, and then they move to presenting facts or book reviews orally. Ultimately, they practice delivering ideas or original writing. Writing skills are developed early in the student’s academic experience. Even our kindergartners “write” in their daily journals, although for a while their writing is simply expressive pictures. Kindergartners and first graders write to pen pals in upper grades. Second graders participate in Writing Express. Third and fifth graders are formally evaluated by writing assessments. Each class publishes a book of their writings at the end of the school year and students are encouraged to periodically contribute to our school’s monthly newsletter, The Acorn. Many of our students contribute their writing talents in the National PTA’s Reflections and the Media Festival competitions. In addition, students spend thirty minutes each day using the Integrated Learning System (ILS), a computerized program for language arts skills. We continue to increase these levels of writing expectations by our ongoing in-services on how to improve students’ skills. The most recent was a program called “Assessment Strategies in the Writing Process“, facilitated by Mr. Herb Hrebic from Chicago, Illinois. Language and communication skills are so vital throughout life that our faculty continually seeks ways to improve in this area. Recently, our first through third grade faculty has been trained in the state sponsored Reading First Program. (C4) The High Achievers Program, provided by Dekalb County Schools, also provides a component of enrichment for all students. (C4) Through the High Achievers Program, our school has received many useful resources for teachers to address higher order learning. Classroom sets of novels and Wordly Wise vocabulary books are some examples of these resources. We have in the past an Action Team devoted to improving listening and vocabulary skills. Through the Team’s efforts, we obtained new collegiate dictionaries for each classroom because the former children’s dictionaries were inadequate for our students. Math: New math or old math? Oak Grove balances the qualities of both. Basic arithmetic is essential for life. To emphasize this, students are administered weekly timed tests in computation, the number of problems to be successfully completed within a few minutes being based on grade level. Students monitor themselves on their improvement. New math emphasizes inquiry and real-life practical application, such as figuring baseball statistics or how many slices of pizza is a fair share. Students practice math skills every day, both in dedicated class time and in other subjects. Weekly math problem- solving activities for the fourth and fifth graders reinforce basic skills and promote higher level reasoning and critical thinking. Our math curriculum is based on the “Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics” developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. A variety of teaching methods are used in our math classes: manipulatives, calculators, computers, and math games. Students spend time each day using the ILS to strengthen and broaden math skills. Computerized math programs prompt play and creativity along with calculation. In the spring, fourth and fifth grade students participate in Math-A-Thon, a fund-raising activity that benefits St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Students procure sponsors who will pay them for working out math problems on their level. Some teachers use a “math problem of the week,” so students can wrestle with problems that initially seem simple but require logical and sequential thinking. As students become more knowledgeable and proficient in basic math skills, and define their own individual abilities and interests, independent contracts are developed with fourth and fifth grade students. This is yet another way Oak Grove works with individual students to meet their needs and encourage them to reach their highest potential. Math scores for end-of-unit tests follow students throughout the year and into the next grade. Teachers attend conferences and in-service sessions on math instruction. The aforementioned High Achievers Program has provided resources that allow us to enrich the curriculum, such as Mathapedia and Math on Call. Science: Science comes alive, sometimes literally, at Oak Grove with hands-on experiments, investigation, and cooperative learning. Science kits help turn classrooms into laboratories for discovering new concepts and conducting experiments. With the money received after being selected a Georgia School of Excellence, we purchased a stereomicroscope so students can get an up-close and 22 personal look at the compound eye of a fly or the intricacy of the plant cells. Students learn through the inquiry method because knowing what questions to ask can be as important as knowing the answers. Project-based assignments and extracurricular programs such as the Science Olympiad give students opportunities to work as part of a cooperative team. The curriculum features “Windows on Science,” a laser-disc program that appeals to technological learning styles. Atlanta has an abundance of resources from which to glean information from the scientific community with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Fernbank Science Center and Museum of Natural History, Sci-Trek’s Hands-on Museum, Georgia School of Technology and Emory University available to us. Each of these three institutions sends speakers to interact with the classes. A meteorologist from a local TV station teaches children about weather patterns. Students regularly take field trips to Fernbank Science Center to view revolving exhibits and participate in experiments. Upper grade students take field trips that are farther afield: the NASA Space Center in Huntsville, AL; the Blue Ridge Center in Toccoa, GA; or the Driftwood Nature Center in St. Simmons Island, GA. Scholarships for field trips are available to any student who needs one, thanks to the support of our business Partner in Education, The Coca-Cola Company. We continually improve our science curriculum by making it more hands-on and oriented to real-life, open-ended applications. We do not have laboratory facilities, so we take innovative approaches to making science come alive. Fourth graders build bridges out of toothpicks as well as rockets they launch themselves. Right on our school grounds is an outdoor classroom and experimental lab: the nature trail/wildlife preserve we built by hand. Our courtyard is home to several trees adopted and planted by fourth graders when they studied about the ecosystem. Once a year, it is also home to butterflies that different classrooms have raised from the larval stage and watched metamorphosize from caterpillars to adult butterflies. Social Studies: Oak Grove’s social studies curriculum underscores the school’s theme of working together. Primary grade students learn about local social interaction; upper grade students learn where their place is in the nation and the world. During presidential and gubernatorial elections, all children vote for their candidate, learning a great deal about the electoral process. Students experience other cultures not only through books, but also from invited speakers, CNN programming, and international festivities. Students learn to reason and think logically through simulations such as the computer game, Oregon Trail. Simulations of crossing the Atlantic in 17th-century schooners and living during the Civil War actually place students in the mindset of the pilgrims. Invited speakers, such as individuals who survived the holocaust, bring a greater sense of reality to what students have read. In addition, Internet technology links us to the world and CD-ROM and laser disk programs and videos dramatize the people and lessons of history. Students cap their social studies experience by researching, analyzing, and writing a topic of their choice for the Social Sciences Fair. By producing a sophisticated report and backboard, students hone skills in reading, investigation, research, referencing, writing, and time management. Teachers at Oak Grove designed the student instruction manual adopted by a number of other schools in our district. Arts: Music, art, and drama are pivotal subjects, mixed into the core subjects. Through the art teacher, students learn about great artists and artistic movements, and then try their own hand at creating. They have been positively challenged with more hands-on activities, creating projects beyond the expectations of the arts teacher. The music teacher introduces students to styles, movements, and music theory as well as appreciation through listening and through movement. The students learn an array of songs from folk to classic to rock and have the chance to perform at concerts for parents and families. In fifth grade, students can select band or orchestra where they learn to play the instrument of their choosing, and then learn to play their part in compositions. Drama provides a vehicle to present what students have learned in language arts or social studies. Spanish: With the advent of the Internet, our world is evolving into a closer-knit, global community. The need to know and understand our neighbors is more important than ever before. Four years ago, the parents of Oak Grove Elementary came together to raise enough money to hire two part-time native 23 speakers of Spanish to start a foreign language program for their children. The parents recognized that, though the state and county levels did not support early childhood foreign language instruction, without it their children would be handicapped in a future that is increasingly multi-national and multi-linguistic. From Kindergarten through the upper grades, the students were finally given the opportunity to have what children in most other countries take for granted: exposure to more than one language. Two years ago, the DeKalb County Board of Education acknowledged the school’s commitment to foreign education by providing a full-time, certified, and specially trained elementary Spanish teacher. This teacher provides instruction to all Oak Grove students, including Pre-Kindergarten and special education students. The two central goals of the Spanish program are enjoyment and proficiency. Experts have thrown out the idea that languages should be taught using grammar-based memory and translation methods; such methods often do more harm than good, creating life-long aversions to foreign language. Learning for children must be enjoyable. It takes place in a friendly, nurturing, and language-rich environment with the second language as well as the first. Thus, classes are of a comfortable length, shorter for those with shorter attention spans and longer for older children who enjoy longer, more involved activities. C6. What other content areas or programs play essential roles in your schoolwide curriculum goals? Physical Education: For half an hour each day, students learn the fundamentals of fitness and sports with an emphasis on good sportsmanlike conduct. The program matches students’ physical and affective development. All students participate in fitness activities, guided discovery, movement, skill development, social interaction, and self-awareness of personal fitness. Students in special education are mainstreamed into physical education with grade-level peers. Equipment is new, modern, and up-to-date. Children’s HealthCare, one of our business Partners in Education, recently installed and organized a sequential program for stretching, flexibility, and weight bearing activities. The Physical Education teacher coordinates two very special events each year. Special Olympics: special education students set goals and are facilitated to achieve success. This is accomplished through our “Buddy” program, where they are paired with upper grade students in the regular educational program. Field Day: every student in the school competes on a low-key level. They are given numerous opportunities to achieve individually or as a team. Students can participate every day in appropriate and healthy exercise. Progress in physical education is attained through drills to improve sports and fitness skills. Technology: Every day in 30-minute sessions, students work at computer stations on themes in math, science, language arts, or social studies during sessions on the Integrated Learning System (ILS). Other programs include Windows on Science, Writing Express, math sections on the ITBS, Phonics Prime Time, and more. These computers are located in each classroom (four linked stations). In the media center, computers with pre-installed programs are linked through the wide area network or through the Internet and are in use all day, every day. The Flow Room incorporates technology through the use of stimulating software activities that support the multiple intelligences. Videos bring students into the act as they follow detectives solving math or science or geography problems. Through satellite technology, teachers can bring into their curriculum programs from Georgia Public Television, CNN, and a broad array of channels. Oak Grove continues to create ways to improve our technology exposure for the students. We have recently been chosen to pilot wireless technology. This will enable classroom teachers to implement computer technology central lessons from any location on our school grounds. We have also acquired two data projectors for enhanced instructional use in the classrooms. C7. What requirements must be satisfied before a student is promoted to the next grade or level of schooling? 24 Placement and progress in grades kindergarten through fifth grade depend on the satisfactory completion of the subjects required for each grade. To serve our students and help them attain success, we follow the guidelines below: Historical review of Quality Core Curriculum (QCC), ITBS, and Cognitive Abilities Test (COGAT) testing over the course of the student’s elementary school education to ensure appropriate student development and identity of needs and strengths Alignment of lesson plans to ITBS and Georgia QCC objectives Weekly monitoring of student’s grades and performance, which are sent home to parents, as well as progress reports every six weeks and teacher-parent conferences, a minimum of four times during the school year. Discussion between parent and teacher during the spring conference to discuss the student’s progress and make plans for the upcoming year’s placement. All students are monitored throughout the year as standardized tests are given, and these scores are reviewed to determine whether or not the student should receive further evaluation for gifted or special education programs, or both. If the student’s scores on the ITBS or the COGAT warrant further testing, assessments are given to measure creativity and motivation after parental permission has been given. If the student receives eligible scores in three out of four of these assessments, the parents are notified of their eligibility to receive gifted services (C3). If a student is in fear of being retained, based upon assessment, observation, and academic history, s/he is referred to SST with a goal of providing support to maintain grade level status. After intensive intervention, if status does not improve, s/he is recommended for retention. If a student is issued passing grades, successfully meets state (QCC) and national (ITBS) objectives, and has been an active participant in classroom activities, s/he is promoted to the next grade. D1. How are teaching practices and learning experiences in your school consistent with current knowledge about successful teaching and learning? Oak Grove teachers keep abreast of current knowledge concerning successful teaching and learning by utilizing instructional strategies that bring out the best in our students. We consider the numerous ways students learn and/or exhibit knowledge through various learning styles and modalities, and work hard to develop lessons incorporating these. Additionally, teachers consider Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences when addressing the differences in the ways students think and perceive. Finally, we raise the bar even higher by incorporating Bloom’s taxonomy into lessons and units with the intention that our students have, not only basic knowledge, but also a deeper understanding of what they learn. As the ease of assessing information increases through technology and we become a more global society, it is not enough for our students to be able to recall basic information, but they must also be able to process, synthesize and evaluate what they learn and problem-solve. At Oak Grove, we recognize that teachers are no longer “the sage on the stage” but are learners along with the students. We model flexibility and life-long learning by providing direction for answers to problems rather than telling how to solve them. We work hard to prepare our students to be responsible, caring, and contributing citizens, as well as people who fully appreciate the arts and the diversity of our ever-changing society. The faculty and staff have been provided with numerous staff development workshops and training sessions on such concepts as Brain-based learning, cooperative learning, developing thematic units, and developing writing skills. Our Flow Room, (based on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “Flow” and Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences), is available to all students. Students participate in simulations and projects, where they have individual and group responsibilities and develop products showing what they have learned. In many cases, students are given opportunities to choose their course through independent study and social science projects. We work alongside the student, guiding their learning process every step of the way – “We Work Together To Exceed Expectations”. D2. In what ways do your teaching practices support student-initiated learning? 25 With our primary goal of giving our students a foundation to emerge as productive citizens, we often create opportunities for them to become self-starters. We use multiple approaches to teach concepts that foster student-initiated learning and strive to teach our students to be critical thinkers who formulate strategies to solve problems. In the fifth grade, the students begin to monitor the cooperative efforts of their group activities through evaluation forms they fill out themselves, as a group and individually. Our society has made great strides in science and technology, therefore we teach our students to be information seekers using numerous modalities to seek knowledge and develop quality products that indicate that knowledge. Teachers use brain-based strategies and differentiated instruction to reach every child. The students enjoy, and benefit from, opportunities involving cooperative learning, simulations, learning centers, research, and developing projects based on various subject matter and their interests. To further stimulate and maintain the motivation to learn, we compact the curriculum where needed, providing opportunity for independent studies and student contracts, and allowing for enrichment activities to encourage greater depth of learning. D3. How are resources made available to teachers and students for gathering information and sharing the results of their efforts? Visit Oak Grove School’s media center and you will see walls painted light blue with clouds; you'll see students lounging comfortably on the sofa, engrossed in their books, or sitting at any one of the 19 computers, engaged in research using the Internet and other resources. You'll always find children sitting on the story rug enthralled by a story being read to them. During the 1999-2000 school year, students checked out approximately 1,000 books a week and used the computer facilities every day, all day. Supporting classroom instruction: The media center staff locates material relevant to the curriculum and suggests ways to effectively use these materials with students. The staff also cooperates with teachers to design and teach search strategies for locating references on any subject using the computerized card catalog, electronic encyclopedias on CD-ROM, and the Internet. The media center offers resource-based instructional units and literary-based lessons that compliment what is being taught by the classroom teachers. Enabling students: Students may use the resources any time of the day, either independently or in small groups, and each class has a scheduled weekly visit to the Media Center. They may conduct research by searching through the large selection of reference materials in print, or log on the Internet for different projects. The media specialist and staff help students become independent learners. Enhancing technology literacy: Technology is used in all phases of the media center. The entire collection, both print and non-print, is on a computerized database and is checked out electronically. An extensive selection of CD-ROM programs including titles such as Tronic Phonics, Story Lane, Math Munchers, Reading Blaster, Carmen San Diego, and A.D.A.M. are available to supplement and deepen the curriculum. Satellite and cable access provides programs that can be taped for classroom use. There is an additional classroom wired for large-group viewing of distance learning over the satellite and cable. Several stations in the media center and each classroom are wired for Internet access throughout the school day. A Gateway Destination unit and two data projectors are available for large-group instruction. To enhance teacher and student presentations, the school has two digital cameras and two scanners. Beginning in fourth grade, students learn how to use the Power Point program for their presentations of their animal research projects. With our wireless laptop lab, all students, whether they are working in a portable classroom or recording science results while on our nature trail, will have access to technology and the Internet in most areas on the school grounds. Students also participate in a computer-based reading program called Accelerated Reader. The media center is well stocked with books that are specially marked to denote they are on the Accelerated Reader list. Students make quarterly goals for themselves, read books from the selection, then are tested for comprehension on a computer. Parent volunteers are invaluable to us in this area as they assist the kindergartners and first graders by reading them the questions, and monitor and encourage the other grades. Students earn points based on their success and are given ribbon rewards when they meet each 26 quarterly goal. Those who meet all of the four goals for the year are rewarded with an ice cream social at the end of the year, hosted by the parent volunteers. Another wonderful example of how we work together to exceed expectations. D4. What technology applications are you using? How do they relate to your curricular goals and how do they support teaching and learning? With only one teacher to a class, not every student can always work at his or her own pace. Technology allows students to learn at individualized levels and paces. Oak Grove students work on assignments for 30 minutes every day on the computerized Integrated Learning System (ILS). The ILS objectives are correlated to the DeKalb County curriculum for each subject, and it also tracks and prints reports about student’s progress. Each classroom has an Internet-accessible desktop computer for preparing lesson plans, making handouts, and communicating via e-mail, to name just a few options. Since 90 percent of our families have access to the Internet, we are implementing nschool.com this year. This website service will allow more open communication between the staff, students, and parents. It provides everyone in the Oak Grove family with an e-mail address, bulletin board access, and calendar options. In addition: Special Education: Special education students have computer sessions specially tailored to their needs. They also utilize the ILS system and various computer software appropriate for their academic needs. Pre-kindergarten through first grade: All pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade classes have computers in their classrooms, with a variety of level-appropriate software. These include: Clock Works, Phonics Prime Time, Initial Consonants, FINAL consonants, Blends and Digraphs, Vowels I and II, Money Works, Wooly’s Garden, Wooly’s Bounce, Arithmetic Critters, First Letter Fun, Right of Way, Fun from A to Z, On State, Circus Math, Counting Critters, Mystery Objects, the Friendly Computer, Path Tactics, Picture and Story, and Picture Chompers. The Flow Room: The Flow Room is a special environment available for all students that incorporate learning through multiple intelligences. Technology is a large part of the Flow Room, after having received funding from several grants over the past two years for the purpose of incorporating technology into student learning. The Flow Room has Internet access, five computers with Microsoft Office where students learn to utilize writing and presentation skills, and four stand-alone computers where software relating to the various multiple intelligences challenges the students’ minds. Teachers and students access the Internet and world wide web through two sources: a dial-up line via modem and a direct linkage through the wide area network (WAN) located at the Rehoboth Center, a DeKalb County School System support facility. Upcoming plans include additional hardware and software and a portable wireless laptop lab consisting of thirty computers and three storage carts. Oak Grove prides itself on being a pilot school for the laptop lab. Oak Grove’s Technical Support Service (TSS) specialist supports technology throughout the school and performs troubleshooting on hardware or software problems. She installs and initiates programs on the computers to meet individual student’s needs. The Technology Specialist also gives students a weekly summary of their performance. Through the school’s staff development plan, teachers are trained on how to use technology in the classroom, to plan units, and in other academic goals. As the use of computers becomes more widespread, students at Oak Grove are being trained in vital computer skills. Younger students learn keyboarding and how to utilize educational software programs through learning centers and the Flow Room. Older students incorporate Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in their products. With this training, students are given opportunities to make presentations to larger groups via the Demo unit in the Media Center, projection units in the classroom, or with the laptop lab. 27 E1. What opportunities do teachers and other staff have to build professional community that enhances their collective capacity to work together to support student learning? Thousands of biscuits played a part into a building this close-knit environment. Every Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is Friday morning, Oak Grove’s principal cooks progress; working together is success. breakfast as part of a special treat for faculty, - Henry Ford giving them time to socialize and interact. On these mornings, you might hear spirited discussions on the latest research, a funny story about something a student did or said, or excitement about an upcoming field trip. These are teachers who know they are valued, have a strong focus on doing what is right for “their” children, and have total freedom to share innovative ideas for creative teaching. From class to class, their professionalism is evident in the animated activity of the students, the colorful displays in the rooms and in the halls, and in the engaged looks on the children’s faces. Weekly faculty meetings, staff committees, grade level meetings, and teacher workdays give our staff numerous opportunities to plan together, or work in teams and develop a sense of professional community. Once a month, grade-level teachers meet together with the assistant principal for instruction to focus on key concepts or concerns in the classrooms. Each year, teachers plan several projects to allow all the classes within a grade to work together. Parents undoubtedly play a winning role on our team, volunteering for numerous committees, fundraising for curriculum needs, and awarding grants to teachers through the PTA. E2. How does a coherent approach to professional development for teachers and other staff ensure their ability to implement effectively the school’s curriculum, instructional strategies, and support system? How do organizational arrangements, such as time and teaching assignments, and school norms and culture, make professional development a priority? The Oak Grove faculty and staff are life-long learners. In 1999-2000, our faculty and staff logged more than 2,000 hours in staff development, and each year our administrative team coordinates workshops and seminars during teacher workdays. We assigned a staff development liaison, who designed a comprehensive staff development plan targeted for on-site in-services to meet the specific needs at Oak Grove School, which are: differentiating instruction and developing strategies for thematic units and student projects, improving inclusion strategies, and advancing faculty and student technology abilities. Moreover, teachers take full advantage of the numerous staff development courses offered through DeKalb County during the year. As expected of professionals, the administration and faculty keep active in numerous national and state professional associations. The staff has continuous on-site learning opportunities. The assistant principal for instruction takes her role very seriously and with great energy, updating the faculty on new research or successful programs in other schools. We implement a Staff Development Day, “Oak Grove Style”, where Oak Grove’s teachers conduct workshops to their peers or expert consultants address the faculty and staff on topics such as improving math scores, building vocabulary, and improving listening skills. A number of our teachers or staff have taught summer school and conducted in-services for others in the school system. The media specialist leads staff seminars on new technologies and provides teachers with books, audiovisual resources and computers. Oak Grove administration supports the staff in attending off-site learning workshops and conferences. Many of our faculty and staff attend local and national conferences throughout the year and return to share the newfound information. Staff members have visited, and will continue to visit, schools that have shared their exemplary practices in order to better facilitate those programs within our school. We use every avenue available to collaborate with those with exceptional practices and work together with them to exceed our expectations. 28 E3. How does the school tailor professional development and support to address the differences in career experience or professional responsibility? Oak Grove is a school where every staff member feels ownership, taking on a shared responsibility for our student’s achievements. The administration goes to great lengths to develop and nurture each member of our school community. Inspired by our professional administrative staff, some staff members are undergoing, or have completed, graduate training in leadership. New teachers are supported through those first challenging months. Each is assigned a “master teacher,” a mentor who will help with their weekly planning, assist with procedures and paperwork, praise their accomplishments and listen to their concerns. New teachers are encouraged, through classroom coverage, to observe veteran peers for instructional ideas. First time teachers, and those experienced teachers new to our school, also have the TSS available to guide them as needed. Most of the training sessions held at Oak Grove are designed for all faculty members. Each October, on Staff Development Day, every member of the faculty and staff participate in professional development opportunities on or off campus. The high level of participation at these workshops demonstrates the feeling of shared responsibility. E4. How does your school use the processes and results of student assessment, staff evaluation, and school review to support professional growth? How has teacher professional development improved teaching and resulted in higher student achievement and success? Teachers at Oak Grove are evaluated according to the Georgia Teacher Evaluation Program (GTEP). Prior to evaluation, a mandatory orientation and optional pre-evaluation conferences are offered to teachers. The Program uses two instruments: (1) Georgia Teacher Observation Instrument (GTOI). During the school year, administrators observe each teacher during one or more unannounced classroom observations for twenty minutes, after which, they consult with the teacher on possible improvements; (2) Georgia Teacher Duties and Responsibilities Instrument (GTDRI). How well teachers fulfill their professional responsibilities and comply with school, county, and state regulations are determined by these yearlong observations. The principal then writes an annual teacher evaluation summary based on the results from both the GTOI and the GTDRI. Performance that needs improvement is dealt with promptly. Both the teacher and the administrator collaborate to create a Professional Development Plan, defining educational objectives and targeted staff development training. In addition to meeting State and County evaluation requirements, Oak Grove administrators perform frequent informal observations to give teachers feedback. The assistant principal for instruction checks lesson plans bi-weekly to see that objectives are covered and instruction is delivered effectively. She always scouts new, innovative and effective practices and strategies for classrooms. We recognize and support our exemplary teachers. Those with effective or innovative ideas get the spotlight in the school’s newsletter or on the faculty bulletin board, and each year, the faculty selects one outstanding teacher to honor as their “Teacher of the Year”. The assistant principal for instruction provides a weekly agenda for each teacher and shares articles on new educational research. Our teachers by organizing holiday parties, showers for weddings, new babies and adoptions, Secret Valentine exchanges, and gift packages for new teachers. And the PTA presents teachers with start-up grants to purchase class-related materials or programs. F1. How does leadership move your school toward its vision/mission? How is the instructional leadership role defined and implemented? The Alaskan Iditarod is a fitting analogy of the seamless leadership and teamwork at Oak Grove. A sled team is ineffectual without its driver to map the course and its lead dog to steer - with the rest of the team playing a vital role toward their ultimate destination. Our principal and assistant principal for instruction inspire the teachers to persevere, and work together toward shared goals. They tap the talents of our teachers, involving each and every one of the teachers in committees and teams to realize excellence. The SPSI committee, which is the driving force for developing school goals, exemplifies 29 collaborative planning. The committee reviews the evidence to assess student needs, researches the solutions, plans development and implementation, and examines the results for development of future strategies. The relationship between parents and staff is enviable, with literally hundreds of PTA members devoting thousands of hours helping to support the goals, the faculty, and the curriculum. In turn, the school leaders keep their fingers on the pulse of what parents want for their children. Oak Grove leaders form a dynamic, hard-working team that listens. Our school motto of “Working Together to Exceed Expectations” underscores the power of striving for a common goal, sharing leadership, and offering ceaseless support to one another. It is You see things and you say “Why?”; but I dream things our job to be role models for our students; we that never were and I say “Why not?” show our love for reading, we discuss current -George Bernard Shaw events happening around the globe, and we demonstrate teambuilding by collaborating with our peers. Oak Grove's principal has contagious enthusiasm. Though he has been principal at the school for a dozen years, his energy and drive is indicative of a newly hired trailblazer. Principal: With staff input, Mr. John Tippins constructs the instructional policies of our school. He assigns teaching duties, committee assignments, and all other job-related assignments. He works tirelessly, fosters a teaching-learning environment in which the educational program continually improves; he rolls up his sleeves and gets involved, his door is always open and his integrity, humor and intelligence inspire his faculty. Mr. Tippins keeps current on all the latest educational issues by attending conferences and seminars. His strong involvement with the Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals (GAESP) keeps the faculty abreast of current developments across the state and nationwide. Teachers are expected to use innovative and creative approaches in implementing the curriculum, and he values their ideas and expertise. Perhaps the crowning touch...Mr. Tippins bakes dozens of biscuits from scratch, cooks buttery old-fashioned grits, and brews a mean cup of coffee every Friday morning for teachers and staff. Assistant Principal for Instruction: Ms. Sonja Alexander assists the principal in providing leadership for the instructional program. She gives guidance in classroom assignments, curriculum pacing, and maintenance of records of student progress. Ms. Alexander conducts faculty and staff observations and evaluations and holds regular conferences to discuss performance. She also leads monthly grade-level meetings, during which she encourages the sharing of ideas and instructional information. Ms. Alexander has effectively designed the format for the annual SPSI improvement plan, which allows teachers to plan strategically for the upcoming year by analyzing and interpreting test scores. She reminds teachers of the importance of taking a little time each day to regroup, rejuvenate and reward themselves. Counselor: Ms. Lisa Schwartz provides guidance and counseling programs serving students, parents, faculty, and staff. She intervenes in crisis situations and leads classes in guidance instruction. Students know where they can turn if they are feeling uneasy, or sad, or need someone to talk with about their concerns. Ms. Schwartz chairs the Student Support Team (SST), a joint effort of regular education and special education to identify and plan instructional programs for at-risk students. Another important part of her job is organizing and facilitating the successful annual Parenting Fair. F2. How does the school engage its internal and external stakeholders in leadership and decision- making? What is the relationship between the principal and stakeholders? In 1999, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) reviewed Oak Grove for accreditation renewal, and through the review process, we completed a National Study of School Evaluation (NSSE) self study of Oak Grove School. Each stakeholder in the school was given a survey to assess the effectiveness of our organization and instructional programs. From this process came our school's redefined mission and belief statements, and were able to use the survey results to develop a well-defined School Improvement Plan. Our plan consists of four long-range goals identifying areas of 30 the school needing improvement. Coincidentally, other decision-making teams - the administrative team, the student council, and the PTA - created their own long range goals and they were all in line with the School Improvement Plan (SIP). We are all working together toward the same goals to continually improve our school for the ultimate benefit of the students. Each of the teams mentioned reviews their long-range goals yearly for any needed revisions. A copy of our School Improvement Plan is kept available in the media center for review at any time. F3. What kind of participatory school improvement process operates at your school? How did your school prepare its Self-Assessment for the Blue Ribbon Schools Program and how did this initiative relate to other school improvement and planning efforts? Oak Grove is not content to rest on its laurels as an accomplished elementary school. Changing to meet our population influx requires consistent monitoring; our SPSI Leadership Team spearheads this effort. The process for school improvement begins in the spring when teachers submit applications for serving on the SPSI Team, where ten leadership team members chair our five Action Teams. They meet monthly with the other leadership team members to assess their progress, coordinate activities, encourage one another and prepare for upcoming meetings. The Action Teams meet monthly to set objectives such as acquiring additional resource materials, holding in-service sessions, using peer tutoring, publishing student writings, and assigning tasks. A critical aspect of developing and implementing time lines is to anticipate and overcome obstacles. The Action Teams establish timetables for accomplishing the sequential objectives for achieving a goal. In 1999-2000, our faculty logged close to 900 hours on school improvement. The process used to develop the Blue Ribbon Application is a good example of our collaboration. Teachers wholeheartedly agreed to apply for the Blue Ribbon National Honor. While we read of schools where teachers feel overworked and underpaid, we experience the fruits of our labor when our students excel beyond their expectations. We are energized and immeasurably rewarded by seeing the success of our Oak Grove students, which validates every long hour, every extra bit of effort we invest. We are proud of our work, we are proud of the part we play in making Oak Grove the kind of school we would be proud to send our own children. An Action Team obtained a copy of the Blue Ribbon Application, examined the elements and divided the responsibilities among the school faculty and staff best suited for each topic. The effort was met with enthusiasm, with each participant submitting a document for the designated question posed in the application form. The documents were to reflect the thinking of more than one person, so the faculty consulted with one another throughout the year. Again and again, the elements were reviewed, discussed and embellished among faculty, parents and school leaders. The completion of the Blue Ribbon Application was a yearlong, studied effort that included all stakeholders. F4. How does your school leadership use the most current information about education to promote continuous improvement at your school? How does such evidence influence decision- making? Our principal is actively involved in legislative issues and school system directives, regularly updating Oak Grove faculty and the PTA on decisions influencing education, and inviting speakers to discuss anticipated changes in Georgia's education. While developing an annual school improvement plan, the SPSI committee looks at current research findings, recently published articles, and testing data from Oak Grove School as well as the county school system. Faculty, staff, and administrators are informed of relevant courses offered at the local schools and other sites throughout the county. Plans for school improvement are incorporated into each teacher’s daily lesson plans and are aligned with the curriculum. School-derived data drives SPSI goals and objectives for meeting these goals are written into lesson plans. The data is also used to benchmark and measure progress. Teachers conduct extensive research through libraries, interviews with college professors, and the Internet to select textbooks and new programs. For example, when the SPSI noted a weakness in math computation skills, Action Team members researched how children learn computation skills and then 31 explored various timed-test programs. The Literary Guild was instituted at Oak Grove after teachers researched literary genres, effective motivational techniques, and available literary listings. To be awarded a PTA grant for enrichment programs or extra teaching aids, teachers conduct comprehensive research to justify their requests. F5. As you reflect on the last five years, what conditions or changes have contributed most to the overall success of your school? SPSI: Over the past five years, the committee for Strategic Planning for School Improvement has fine-tuned academics and honed operations at Oak Grove School. The SPSI has generated among the teachers a greater sense of accountability, and has increased collaborative planning between the administration, faculty and staff. The faculty has enthusiastically embraced the responsibility for establishing goals and priorities and taking an active role in decision-making. Passion for reading: The Literary Guild, Accelerated Reader, mini-libraries in classrooms, and the DEAR programs create avid readers at Oak Grove. Students consistently score in the high 80th percentile on ITBS total reading. Academic high achievers: The faculty and staff at Oak Grove have been gratified by the successes of our high-achieving students. Over the years, the ITBS scores have gradually increased to 90th percentile averages. The challenge is in maintaining such a standard of excellence. The faculty has learned ways to develop the curriculum so it is stimulating, covers the material, and also keeps raising the bar to challenge our accomplished students. Technology: Oak Grove has made tremendous in-roads in technology over the past five years. We are proud of our array of hardware and software options and their accessibility to all students. Due to the foresight of our administration and technology specialist, our computers and electronic teaching aids are complementary and can interface. Our staff has participated in every opportunity possible through staff development to stay abreast technological innovations in the classroom. Our wireless laptop lab offers versatility we never thought possible even a few years ago. It is often said in jest that kids today seem to know more about computers than adults. As educators, we must be diligent in our education on new technological developments so that we may adequately prepare our students for the advances ahead. Creative writing program: An emphasis on creative writing has produced astonishing results. The PTA-funded anthologies are comprised of samples of every Oak Grove student’s finest writing. The result is a delightful compilation of informative and entertaining creative writings. The reward of seeing oneself in print has added vitality to our language arts program and given students an important goal: writing their best for their community-wide audience. The PTA also recently purchased the materials to create a mini writing center for every classroom to facilitate the writing process. Adding up math: We offer the best of both worlds by balancing new math with old math. New math teaches critical thinking skills and practical applications through real-life word problems. Old math reinforces basic arithmetic skills that students will use for a lifetime. Transitions: In order to meet the changing needs of students and prepare them for world that is becoming increasingly international, parents requested and began a foreign language program. Currently, we are in our second year of having Spanish funded through the school system, rather than by the parents. For several years, a series of disparate tragedies leading to the untimely deaths of five vibrant young students have profoundly rallied the community. These sad events precipitated an outpouring of care and support. In a collaborative spirit, Oak Grove families and faculty have developed lasting tributes to their young friends: a nature trail and wildlife preserve on school grounds, a successful fund-raising walk on behalf of Camp Sunshine, and a multipurpose pavilion on school property. These tangible memorials have helped students cope with stunning losses, helping them grow emotionally. On a happier note, Oak Grove’s reputation for academic excellence has attracted many new families who value education. So eager are parents to move into the Oak Grove district, real estate prices have skyrocketed. The school reorganized to manage the influx of new students. In some cases, the new 32 students have helped the school qualify for additional faculty. In others, the increase grade size has prompted faculty and the administration to creatively divide students into activities and projects so every student can benefit from some small group or individual attention from teachers. F6. How has the school integrated technology to improve management and program efficiency and effectiveness? Technology aids management in all areas of the school. The office automation system is in place in three of the administrative offices, the media center, and the cafeteria. These stations are online with the County’s wide area network (WAN). The principal, assistant principal for instruction, and secretaries have been trained on the student accounting programs used for all phases of student enrollment, grades, and discipline. The office automation system is restricted with passwords. All school correspondence, records, and forms are kept on computer diskettes. The secretaries also supervise the county’s Sub- Finder, used to help find substitute teachers. The media specialist oversees the administrative duties related to technology in the school. She manages the day-to-day operation of the ILS network; takes responsibility for staff development training (60 clock hours) as it relates to the operation of hardware and use of software; and schedules satellite and cable broadcasts in the school. She chairs the technology/media committee, which reviews a five-year technology plan from the State and creates short- and long-range goals with a plan for achieving the goals. Funding for technology comes from lottery dollars, school system allotments, and PTA contributions. Teachers will be able to send e-mail through the district’s area-wide network, nschool.com, and through the Internet. . F7. What do you consider the major educational challenges your school must face over the next five years? Oak Grove faces five major challenges in the next five years. Maintaining its high academic standing: As dieter knows, losing the weight is only half the battle and keeping it off is the other half. Likewise, we at Oak Grove have found that having bright students and high testing scores is only half the challenge...we must also keep those students challenged and the scores at high levels. Maintaining such a capable student body requires an enhanced curriculum to prompt students to reach even higher. We must continually assess our instructional practices. As an inclusion school for the gifted, as well as for special needs students, we must continue to research and develop practices that meet those wide academic needs. Increasing the technological focus: Oak Grove will continue to add more hardware and software and keep current with more powerful applications. The faculty will need to continue to modify the curriculum to make appropriate use of the available technology and participate in staff development opportunities. We will need to address any structural obstacles the school building may hold to maintain a technologically advanced facility. Keeping current: The faculty and staff will need to stay up to date on the latest developments in education. Oak Grove faculty prides themselves on keeping abreast of the educational field and incorporating sound new findings while retaining what has proven to be successful in the past. Meeting special needs: The recent trend toward mainstreaming and our newest honor of being named an inclusion pilot school for the county means that Oak Grove will have more special needs students in the regular classrooms. Teachers will need continued support and training to manage the diverse needs of their students efficiently without disrupting the pace of the class and maintaining a curriculum that is challenging and enriching for all students. Accommodating a larger student body: More parents are choosing Oak Grove over private schools, and the appeal of our school has spurred heavy housing development in this area. Consequently, the number of students enrolling will increase. Our administration, faculty, and staff will need to accommodate student growth in a building designed for fewer students. The current layout of the school 33 building prohibits classroom additions. Class sizes may increase, so teachers will need innovative approaches to allow them to continue giving personalized attention and instruction. G1. What are the goals and priorities of your school, family, and community partnerships? How have your school and community both improved as a result of these partnerships and how did you measure the improvements? Oak Grove has built partnerships with a number of community organizations which teaches our students the importance of community spirit and responsibility to others. Students have been pen pals with students from other schools and have contributed supplies or holiday items to schools with needy families and a local nursing home. Students from our school have worked with or competed against students from other schools through the Science Olympiad, the Academic Bowl, the Stock Market Club, the Board Scholars program, choral festivals, spirit nights with Lakeside High School, cultural arts programs from nearby elementary, high schools and colleges, Georgia State Saturday School for the Gifted, and the Duke University MAP program. In addition, student teachers from area colleges have interned in our classrooms. The YMCA and Alliance Theatre hold after-school enrichment activities and The Music Company offers voice, instrumental, clowning and drama instruction. Through our business partnerships, students learn about the worlds of work and health. The Coca- Cola Company gives scholarship funds for needy students to attend field trips, supplies drinks for field day and school grounds workdays, and gives incentive tokens to motivate students. Children’s HealthCare of Atlanta has built an exercise unit on the playground and teaches students about health. We have felt fortunate that the local businesses have worked with us, providing materials, financial awards, and/or equipment such as computers. The local family-owned grocery store, IGA, returns one percent of all sales, with Kroger, Publix and Target stores also contributing percentages of sales to our school. Numerous other businesses, such as locally owned grocery and drug stores have donated supplies for experiments or classroom events. A number of community gardeners help maintain a nature preserve so that our students can learn about and appreciate nature. Within this preserve is another joint school-business project, the Japanese Garden. For this project, the students submitted their ideas and plans, after learning about the elements of Japanese gardening through a field trip to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. These plans were refined by one of the master gardeners from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, and then planted by students and parents with the expert aid of a Japanese-American parent. A neighboring civic association has joined with the PTA to help support children who walk to and from school. We believe in working together to provide a safe and protective environment for our children from door-to-door. Our students contribute to the business community, as well. The fourth grade class raised over three thousand dollars from Math-A-Thon for the Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital, to be used for cancer research. Our annual William’s Walk raises contributions for Camp Sunshine, a camp just outside of Atlanta that brings together children who are surviving cancer. One of the strongest indicators of our successful partnering are the new families and businesses moving into our community. Builders are putting new homes in every free space they can find to match the demand of those vying to move in, and nearby businesses are growing and thriving. G2. How does your school involve families in their children’s education? At Oak Grove, we fully appreciate how important families are to school success, and we know that our parents help make our school special. By opening our doors to volunteers, we invite hundreds of parents to participate actively in their children’s education. Every day, in every kind of class, from regular to special education to gifted, dozens of parents help in their children’s classrooms to assist the teacher, read aloud, share travel and work experiences, and organize special events around project themes. We had two hundred parent volunteers at Field Day last May! 34 Before and after-school, teachers are accessible to parents for conferences to discuss their individual child’s needs. This two-way communication is strongly reinforced through weekly couriers that contain the student’s work and important messages from the school. Parents will also find, inside the courier, a weekly behavior/study habits form detailing their child’s behavior and academic progress. A new avenue for facilitating communication is nschool.com. This is an interactive web site where parents can look at an individual teacher’s site, e-mail correspondence, or enter a “chat room” that enables parents and teachers to discuss various school-related topics. On a regular basis, hundreds of parents attend PTA meetings, where they have direct input on school functions. Consistently, we have 100 percent PTA membership, with every teacher in the school as a member, as well. At the beginning of the school year is Curriculum Night, where teachers share plans, answer questions, and listen to parents’ ideas and concerns. At the annual Parenting Fair, expert speakers cover complex issues such as discipline, homework motivation, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder, coping with school problems, and more. The school regularly holds events to spotlight student achievement. When students need or request more direct help, the counselor offers a number of guidance options (G3). Oak Grove’s extensive special education program necessitates the staff and counselor working jointly with the students and families to help them be successful learners. These students are indeed special, not only to our staff, but to our other students as well, and so we encourage involvement of these students and their parents in as many activities as possible. G3. How does the school support the needs and concerns of families? In a pro-active manner, our school’s counselor offers guidance in several ways: one-on-one, family, and whole class sessions. In one-on-one sessions, she helps students learn coping and behavioral skills, and assesses the children for more serious problems. Family sessions are similar as she strives to get families to work together in solving problems, whether they are academic, social, or domestic. When necessary, the District social worker intervenes. Students and parents find that our counselor has an open door policy to discuss issues at home that affect students. In the classrooms, she regularly conducts guidance sessions on anger management, friendship, self-esteem, and related topics. In addition to these regular sessions, she also delivers specially tailored programs to handle classroom problems that may arise. With parental permission, students undergo hearing and vision screening routinely and in fifth grade are screened for scoliosis. At times during the school year, the counselor organizes clothing or food drives to help needy families in the community, and outreach projects such as mittens for the homeless at a nearby shelter and holiday gift boxes for less fortunate children. Oak Grove students have financial aid readily available for participating in field trips through the support of our business partner in education, The Coca-Cola Company. With supervision, students go into the community to help with many of these projects. With a generous spirit, our students, staff and parents rally around families that have suffered serious illness or tragedies. Through the direction of our Character Education committee and our principal, we have developed a “Grover’s Angels” fund where students learn the rewards of sharing and compassion through anonymous donations to provide support for community members in need. G4. How are educational resources in the school and the community used to extend learning opportunities for students, teachers, and families? Oak Grove’s students utilize many community educational resources, via field trips, to broaden their education and vision. Frequently throughout the school year, students visit nearby Fernbank Science Center and Planetarium to view exhibits and engage in hands-on workshops. Other trips include visiting neighboring Lakeside High School to its GSAMS (Georgia Statewide Academic and Medical System, a two-way interactive satellite-connected classroom), local theaters, and museums. Parents enlist the cooperation of their workplaces to deliver educational programs to the school. One parent speaks to children of the dangers of cigarette smoking, as his profession entails at the Centers for Disease Control. Further, parents who are dentists, scientists, veterinarians, writers and professional artists are always 35 eager to share information with our classes. Other speakers come from Emory University, Georgia State University, the University of Georgia, the Centers for Disease Control, local art schools, and more. Opportunities for educational experiences such as classes, workshops, and demonstrations are announced regularly through flyers and the school’s newsletter, The Acorn. DeKalb County’s public library system enhances our objectives by providing summer reading programs, and use their book lists and research materials when working on projects. Area libraries also extend invitations for family events happening at their facilities. Most days, Oak Grove’s physical building is bustling with after-school activities, extending learning beyond the school day. Cultural arts events are well attended, committee and Scout meetings ensue and the YMCA uses our facility for an after-school daycare program. In the spring, upper grade students may participate in a program that teaches formal dancing and gentile behaviors called Manners and Cotillion. Oak Grove opens its doors during summertime, as well. Camp Invention, a weeklong science-based exploratory day camp is not only held here, but is also staffed and led by our teachers. H1. What is your school’s overall approach to assessment? How do your methods align with your educational vision/mission and curriculum? What questions about assessment is your school currently addressing? Oak Grove utilizes a variety of tools to assess the children’s learning throughout the year. The county and state determine standardized tests and criterion-referenced assessments. Test Students Date Brigance Diagnostic Test Special Education Students As needed Cognitive Abilities Test (COGAT) Grades 1,3,5 November GKAP Kindergarten September Writing Test Grades 3,5 April, January Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) Grades 1 – 5 March Basic Literacy Test Grades K – 3 September, January. May Georgia Criterion Referenced Grades 4,6 May Competency Tests (CRCT) Oak Grove’s mission statement reads, “The mission of Oak Grove is to facilitate the learning process in a nurturing, supportive, educational environment that recognizes and appreciates diversity, implements a variety of teaching modalities of instruction for all children and maintains high academic and behavioral expectations in the pursuit of developing lifelong learners.” In order to accomplish this vision, teachers must scrutinize the results of standardized tests, reviewing each student’s performance as well as grade-level and school-wide performance. Teachers review the results to make adjustments to an individual student’s needs and to modify the class curriculum if weaknesses or strengths were apparent. The results are also used for long-range planning: after the faculty reviews total school and grade-level scores, they meet to brainstorm strategies and techniques for improvement. Oak Grove aligns curriculum and sets goals and objectives for improvement based on the results of the ITBS. The Oak Grove faculty knows that encouraging life-long learning also means that children must get feedback immediately on a daily basis. Students are assessed daily, weekly, and at the end of learning units. The faculty relies on instruments made both by the county and by the teachers. Some assessments are informal. These assessments are then formally incorporated into weekly lesson plans in order to ensure continuing progress. The current issues facing Oak Grove in terms of assessment are the conflicts between accountability of the teacher in the eyes of the state and county and that of the students and community. Teachers struggle between teaching the standards and teaching the individual child. Oak Grove complies with the state and county regulations requiring schools to administer standardized tests to assess student’s learning. Yet, the academic standards of the state are set without taking into consideration the individual 36 child’s learning style, life experiences, and interests, thus creating conflict. Teachers at Oak Grove recognize each child as an individual learner. It is understood that each student learns at his/her own pace, learns in his/her own style, and may need more support from the teacher in order to learn the given material. We feel we must sometimes make accommodations for these differences among the children to better meet their needs and help them become successful learners. Meeting the needs of individual learners is a goal for Oak Grove, as is being held accountable for the state objectives to assure success on standardized tests. Oak Grove is heading in the direction of finding the best way to assess our student’s learning in a way that reflects their true understanding and knowledge, not only on standards for the “norm”, but also on worldly ideas and skills. Evidence of sustained high achievement or significant improvement over the last five years can be found in the attached charts. H2. How do you use assessment results to understand and improve student and school performance? How are data used to influence decision-making? At Oak Grove we center our Strategic Plan for School Improvement Education is not the filling of a pail, but a lighting of a fire. around various types of data. We must -W.B. Yeats use data to effectively make changes in our curriculum to meet the present needs of the students we serve. We analyze the data through a variety of activities and apply the information directly to classroom instruction. Using our Student Data Management System (SDMS), teachers are given classroom rosters that represent ITBS spring test data for each student. This computer program averages the scores together and gives a total score and all subs-scores for the classroom of students on each teacher’s roster. What a powerful tool to identify specific areas of improvement for each individual classroom. Each teacher identifies specific instructional strategies that will be implemented to enhance these areas of weakness. In grade level meetings with the administrative team, this information is discussed and lesson plans are observed for the implementation of strategies for remediation of areas requiring improvement. Also, it is necessary to provide direct instruction to meet students’ needs. One of the Action Teams developed testing profile folders of scattergrams (charts representing the ITBS longitudinal data in all the subsections and total scores) on each student. Each teacher is given a folder on all the students in his or her class to assist with the implementation of direct instruction and flexible groups to meet individual areas of needed improvement. Lastly, teachers scrutinize the results of standardize tests, reviewing each student’s performance as well as grade-level and school-wide performance. When the ITBS results are available, the Leadership Team comes together to brainstorm ideas for improving areas of weakness and maintaining areas of strength and determine the year’s goals. The SPSI Action Teams are put to the task of developing, outlining and implementing a plan to meet those goals. At the end of the year, each team reviews and evaluates its progress. Following are examples of current and past Action teams and their objectives. Testing and Data: Analyze ITBS data and provide strategies to assist teachers in improving test scores Develop and distribute to teachers a “Testing and Profile” folder for each student, which will include all testing data on the individual student Curriculum and Development: Align Quality Core Curriculum, ITBS, and DeKalb County objectives at each grade level Establish and develop grade-level themes and framework for a vertically aligned curriculum Correlate grade-level themes and lessons with ITBS and QCC objectives based on student needs Math Committee: 37 Establish school-wide plan for developing proficiency in timed computation Develop an after-school math club to aid struggling students in mastering basic skills and to build for transfer H3. What assessment data are communicated to students, parents, and the community? What are the purposes of these communications? How does the school ensure that these stakeholders understand the standards for judgment and the meaning of the data? Parents are informed about all standardized and non-standardized assessments administered to the students (H1). We also inform them about grade level content assessments through the student’s weekly agendas. When we receive standardized testing results, we set up parent conferences to review the data on each student. We also provide additional information regarding the utilization of testing data in our annual parenting fair. Weekly assessment grades are communicated through the home courier system. Teachers set up conferences as needed to review questions or concerns from parents. Test results are an important indicator of a student’s achievement level and one measure to communicate if a student is meeting the necessary objectives at his/her grade level. Each teacher is provided state and national curriculum objectives for his/her grade level in every content area. Teachers are expected to utilize instructional materials and strategies (textbooks, technology, field trips, guest speakers, trade books) to effectively cover the content objectives. At Oak Grove, the textbook is not the curriculum. We know that with individual learning styles, we cannot cover the objectives utilizing one method of instruction. A Parent-Student Handbook distributed at the beginning of each school year makes students and parents aware of what standardized tests will be administered at each grade level. "Curriculum Night", which is traditionally held in the first month of school, is an opportunity for teachers to explain the objectives that will be covered during that school year and which tests will be administered to quantify the meeting of the objectives. We find it vitally important to keep the parents informed at all times of our expectations of the students. As partners in our education team, parents work with their children at home knowing which objectives should be met for various lessons. They can monitor, alongside the teachers, whether their children have mastered the objective and will communicate with us if more instruction is needed on a particular unit. Generally, if a student is not meeting the goals, this may signal to the teacher that another method of instruction should be utilized. H4. What standardized norm-referenced test developed on the national, state, or district level has your school given in the last five years? What are the results for the last five years? On core content areas of Reading, Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) has been administered to Oak Grove students in first through sixth grade for the last five years. Charts are attached at the end of this report providing specific data for all grade levels. The ITBS is an achievement test based on national standards in the core content areas aforementioned. We identified test scores in three areas; Reading Total, Language Total, and Math Total. Strong emphasis is placed on every aspect of the curriculum; however, we do believe that reading, language and math skills are the platform on which our budding scholars may build to exceed expectation. Oak Grove’s test scores on the ITBS have consistently exceeded that of the district and state level schools. In 1996-1997, the school’s ITBS scores were the highest in the five county metropolitan area. Our total scores over the past five years have remained at a Normal Curve Equivalent Score (NCE) of 71 or above, ranking far above the national mean score of 50. Several factors influence these scores: students come to school eager to learn, parents provide rich life experiences for their children, and teachers implement groundbreaking lesson planning that are developed to reflect ITBS objectives. ITBS scores offer tremendous evaluation data, enabling us to zero in on trends that we have addressed through major curriculum changes. 38 In spring of 1997, we observed a decline in our reading and language scores. Despite reflecting the anticipated adjustment period accompanying new textbook adoption, we began developing strategies immediately to remedy the situation. We acquired additional materials to support the curriculum in the areas of reading comprehension and vocabulary. In spring of 1999, we were awarded a Reading First state grant that would allow us to purchase additional materials in grades K-3 to fortify our reading program. Materials purchased with Reading First grant funding in fall of 1999 contributed to major improvements in reading and language scores on the 2000 ITBS scores. In first grade our reading total improved by 5 NCE’s when comparing 1999 and 2000 first grade scores. In second grade, we improved by 4 NCE’s when comparing the 1999 and 2000 second grade scores, and by 5 NCE’s when comparing matched students from 1999 first grade and 2000 second grade. Improvements were seen across all grade levels. At the same time we became a “Reading First School”, we also elected to participate as a “High Achievers’ Pilot School”, where we received materials through the district’s support to enrich the curriculum in math and other areas. Math scores showed solid improvement right away. When comparing the math total scores of students from the 1998 first grade test scores to the 2000 third grade test scores, the students had improved by 16 NCE’s. The total school scores in math have improved across all grade levels. Several of our students are eligible to apply and are accepted to attend the magnet school for high achievers’. Beginning with the fourth grade, students scoring in the 85th percentile or higher may qualify for the magnet program. With a percentage of Oak Grove students transferring to the nearby magnet program, our overall total scores in the fourth through sixth grade declined somewhat. However, our remaining students have continued to score well above national, and state average scores. We are consistently ranked within the top five schools in our district. All students are expected to take the ITBS. Students are exempted from the test only if they have an Individualized Education Plan (I.E.P.) identifying their need to abstain due to the nature of their disability. The I.E.P. committee determines an alternate assessment method in such cases. The majority of our students with mild and moderate intellectual disabilities are exempted from the test and are administered the Brigance Diagnostic Test. Subgroup test data is presented for ethnicity for 1999 and 2000. We have a student population of 15 percent African-American students and 76 percent white students. The results from the data indicate there is a disparity in the scores. Overall, the white students tend to score at least 10 NCE’s above that of the African-American students at each grade level. In analyzing this information, we have identified that several African-American students, who score below the national mean of 50, have transferred from other schools. These students have not been introduced to the instructional material their grade level peers have received at Oak Grove and consequently have to catch up. Through individualized planning, teachers assess deficient areas and implement strategies to remediate. We have also observed that as a student remains educated at Oak Grove, African- American or white, their scores improve. The total NCE score for first grade African-American students in 1999 was 45 and the score was 52 for the same matched second grade students in 2000. In 1999 the fifth grade total NCE score was 65. In 2000, the same students in sixth grade had a total score of 73. Even though there is a disparity amongst these two ethnic groups, the African-American students consistently score above the national mean score of 50 NCE, achieving at or above grade level in all content areas. Daily, students of all ethnic groups meet the academic challenges placed before them. H5. What criterion-referenced tests do you use? What are the results for the last five years? We administer The Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). This test was administered for the first time last year in May 2000, to our fourth and sixth grades. The students were assessed in three domains of Reading, English/Language Arts, and Math. Charts are attached at the end of this report providing specific data for all grade levels. The Georgia Department of Education has plans to administer a complete battery including Science and Social Studies to first through fifth grade by 39 May, 2002. At this time we only have one year of data for our fourth and sixth grade, therefore our total score is not indicative our students’ knowledge. Oak Grove scores are consistently higher when compared to the district and state level. The scores also indicate that over 85 percent of our students score at or above the proficient level in the three areas assessed. H6. What alternative assessments of student performance do you use? The Student Portfolio, a collection of documentation of student skill development, is a unique and effective way to assess performance. We get a clear, progressive view of student skills throughout his or her schooling, which offers meaningful ways to review their progress with parents and provides for a seamless transition from teacher to teacher or from school to school. Portfolios also document adaptations and modifications to the environment, instruction, or activity. Another routine form of assessment is the weekly chart, detailing behavior and study skills, which is sent home every Friday in each child’s courier. On this chart, teachers give immediate feedback in both areas of accomplishment and areas of concern. H7. What are the data for the past five years in the following areas that serve as quantitative indicators of school climate and engagement? ’99 – ‘00 ’98 – ‘99 ’97 – ‘98 ’96 – ‘97 ’95 – ‘96 Daily student attendance 96% 97.4% 97% 97% 96% Daily teacher attendance 95.4% 97% 97% 98% 96% Teacher turnover rate 3.3% 5% 1.6% 3% 3% Oak Grove Elementary is a great place for students to grow. Teachers come from many schools seeking a position, and students comment daily on how they love school. When you enter the doors of Oak Grove, you are greeted by smiling faces and warm hearts of people who love learning. Most teachers and families leave this school due to relocation out of the state or the district. H8. Which awards received by your school, staff, or students are most indicative of school success? Our students are our shining stars. We are proud of each and every one of them, and if we could, we would give awards to them all. A great number of students and faculty have won recognition from formal organizations over the years. The awards listed here reflect recognition for exceptional work and ideas and the student awards reflect academic and creative excellence. 40 Award Recipient 1999 Georgia School of Excellence Oak Grove Elementary School 2nd Place in County, 1999 Oak Grove Academic Team State Finalist for Elementary Schools, 1999 Oak Grove Chess Club Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, 2000 ed. Valerie McNair, 5th grade teacher Pro-Corps Teacher Leadership Team, 1998 Lynn Cabral, Discovery teacher Georgia Elementary Art Educator of the Year, 1995 Dixie Moore, Art teacher Media Festival, County level, 2000 Zac deGorgue, 6th grade student 1st Place, Social Science Fair, County level, 1999 Margaret Sale, 6th grade student 41 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY NORM-REFERENCED TEST DATA Grade 1 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form K/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing What groups were excluded from testing, why and how were they assessed? Special education students (as determined by Individual Education Plans) and ESOL students were excluded(H4). Number excluded 5 Percent excluded 1.4 Scores are reported here as (check one): NCEs ___√ ____ Scaled Scores _______ 1999-2000 1998-1999 1997-1998 1996-1997 1995-1996 Testing month March March March March March SCHOOL SCORES Total or Composite Score 75 73 74 74 76 Number tested 71 72 93 63 62 Percent tested 100 97 100 97 98 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading Total 72 67 67 69 72 2. Language Total 78 76 71 71 74 3. Math Total 74 64 67 69 72 42 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY NORM-REFERENCED TEST DATA Grade 2 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form K/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing What groups were excluded from testing, why and how were they assessed? Special education students (as determined by Individual Education Plans) and ESOL students were excluded (H4). Number excluded 5 Percent excluded 1.4 Scores are reported here as (check one): NCEs ___√ ____ Scaled Scores _______ 1999-2000 1998-1999 1997-1998 1996-1997 1995-1996 Testing month March March March March March SCHOOL SCORES Total or Composite Score 75 73 74 74 76 Number tested 65 93 72 69 79 Percent tested 100 100 99 90 99 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading Total 72 68 65 64 71 2. Language Total 75 71 68 64 73 3. Math Total 73 71 67 60 68 43 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY NORM-REFERENCED TEST DATA Grade 3 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form M/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing What groups were excluded from testing, why and how were they assessed? Special education students (as determined by Individual Education Plans) and ESOL students were excluded (H4). Number excluded 6 Percent excluded 1.6 Scores are reported here as (check one): NCEs ___√ ____ Scaled Scores _______ 1999-2000 1998-1999 1997-1998 1996-1997 1995-1996 Testing month March March March March March SCHOOL SCORES Total or Composite Score 75 73 74 74 76 Number tested 88 73 73 77 64 Percent tested 98 100 99 99 98 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading Total 70 66 65 74 76 2. Language Total 78 69 68 85 76 3. Math Total 83 73 67 81 85 44 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY NORM-REFERENCED TEST DATA Grade 4 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form K/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing What groups were excluded from testing, why and how were they assessed? Special education students (as determined by Individual Education Plans) and ESOL students were excluded (H4). Number excluded 6 Percent excluded 1.8 Scores are reported here as (check one): NCEs ___√ ____ Scaled Scores _______ 1999-2000 1998-1999 1997-1998 1996-1997 1995-1996 Testing month March March March March March SCHOOL SCORES Total or Composite Score 75 73 74 74 76 Number tested 71 54 76 85 72 Percent tested 100 100 99 96 97 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading Total 67 63 76 75 75 2. Language Total 73 65 75 77 73 3. Math Total 69 64 77 79 77 45 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY NORM-REFERENCED TEST DATA Grade 5 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form M/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing What groups were excluded from testing, why and how were they assessed? Special education students (as determined by Individual Education Plans) and ESOL students were excluded (H4). Number excluded 9 Percent excluded 2.8 Scores are reported here as (check one): NCEs ___√ ____ Scaled Scores _______ 1999-2000 1998-1999 1997-1998 1996-1997 1995-1996 Testing month March March March March March SCHOOL SCORES Total or Composite Score 75 73 74 74 76 Number tested 55 73 66 70 57 Percent tested 98 100 98 97 97 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading Total 67 68 68 70 71 2. Language Total 71 75 78 73 78 3. Math Total 69 73 77 74 71 46 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY NORM-REFERENCED TEST DATA Grade 6 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form K/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing What groups were excluded from testing, why and how were they assessed? Special education students (as determined by Individual Education Plans) and ESOL students were excluded (H4). Number excluded 5 Percent excluded 1.6 Scores are reported here as (check one): NCEs ___√ ____ Scaled Scores _______ 1999-2000 1998-1999 1997-1998 1996-1997 1995-1996 Testing month March March March March March SCHOOL SCORES Total or Composite Score 75 73 74 74 76 Number tested 64 62 68 70 63 Percent tested 99 98 100 100 98 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading Total 76 73 73 73 69 2. Language Total 77 75 75 78 72 3. Math Total 76 753 77 70 68 47 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY SUBGROUP RESULTS Grade 1 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form K/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing Year Tested 1999 Ethnicity White African-American SUBGROUP SCORES Total or Composite Score 72 45 Number tested 67 6 Percent tested 100 100 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading 66 45 2. Math 71 46 Grade 1 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form K/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing Year Tested 2000 Ethnicity White African-American SUBGROUP SCORES Total or Composite Score 74 63 Number tested 69 9 Percent tested 100 100 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading 73 65 2. Math 76 55 48 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY SUBGROUP RESULTS Grade 2 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form K/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing Year Tested 1999 Ethnicity White African-American SUBGROUP SCORES Total or Composite Score 77 56 Number tested 78 9 Percent tested 100 100 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading 81 65 2. Math 80 56 Grade 2 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form K/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing Year Tested 2000 Ethnicity White African-American SUBGROUP SCORES Total or Composite Score 77 52 Number tested 57 8 Percent tested 100 100 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading 75 51 2. Math 76 53 49 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY SUBGROUP RESULTS Grade 3 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form M/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing Year Tested 1999 Ethnicity White African-American SUBGROUP SCORES Total or Composite Score 72 54 Number tested 56 9 Percent tested 100 100 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading 74 47 2. Math 87 53 Grade 3 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form M/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing Year Tested 2000 Ethnicity White African-American SUBGROUP SCORES Total or Composite Score 81 52 Number tested 74 12 Percent tested 100 100 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading 73 53 2. Math 87 64 50 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY SUBGROUP RESULTS Grade 4 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form K/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing Year Tested 1999 Ethnicity White African-American SUBGROUP SCORES Total or Composite Score 70 45 Number tested 51 4 Percent tested 100 100 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading 65 43 2. Math 67 49 Grade 4 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form K/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing Year Tested 2000 Ethnicity White African-American SUBGROUP SCORES Total or Composite Score 74 58 Number tested 58 9 Percent tested 100 100 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading 69 52 2. Math 70 60 51 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY SUBGROUP RESULTS Grade 5 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form M/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing Year Tested 1999 Ethnicity White African-American SUBGROUP SCORES Total or Composite Score 79 65 Number tested 61 7 Percent tested 98 100 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading 68 58 2. Math 79 62 Grade 5 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form M/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing Year Tested 2000 Ethnicity White African-American SUBGROUP SCORES Total or Composite Score 75 50 Number tested 69 7 Percent tested 100 100 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading 69 45 2. Math 72 52 52 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY SUBGROUP RESULTS Grade 6 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form K/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing Year Tested 1999 Ethnicity White African-American SUBGROUP SCORES Total or Composite Score 79 57 Number tested 58 7 Percent tested 100 100 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading 77 60 2. Math 73 61 Grade 6 Test Iowa Test of Basic Skills Edition/publisher year Form K/1992 Publisher Riverside Publishing Year Tested 2000 Ethnicity White African-American SUBGROUP SCORES Total or Composite Score 82 73 Number tested 52 6 Percent tested 100 100 SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading 77 68 2. Math 77 68 53 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY CRITERION – REFERENCED TEST Grade 4 Test Georgia Criterion – Referenced Competency Test Edition/publisher year 1998 Publisher Riverside Publishing What groups were excluded from testing, why and how were they assessed? The test was administered to all students. Number excluded 0 Percent excluded 0 Scores are reported here as (check one): NCEs _√__ Scaled Scores ____ 1999-2000 Testing month May SCHOOL SCORES TOTAL OR COMPOSITE SCORE N/A* At or Above Proficient At or Above Excellent Number tested 71 Percent tested 100 SUBTEST SCORES SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading At or Above Proficient 92 At or Above Excellent 55 2. Language Arts/English At or Above Proficient 98 At or Above Excellent 37 3. Math At or Above Proficient 92 At or Above Excellent 32 DISTRICT SCORES TOTAL OR COMPOSITE SCORE N/A* At or Above Proficient At or Above Excellent SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading At or Above Proficient 59 At or Above Excellent 23 2. Language Arts/English At or Above Proficient 67 At or Above Excellent 14 3. Math At or Above Proficient 58 At or Above Excellent 10 STATE SCORES TOTAL OR COMPOSITE SCORE N/A* At or Above Proficient At or Above Excellent SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading At or Above Proficient 65 At or Above Excellent 28 2. Language Arts/English At or Above Proficient 71 At or Above Excellent 16 3. Math At or Above Proficient 62 At or Above Excellent 11 * Scores not available 54 OAK GROVE ELEMENTARY CRITERION – REFERENCED TEST DATA Grade 6 Test Georgia Criterion – Referenced Competency Test Edition/publisher year 1998 Publisher Riverside Publishing What groups were excluded from testing, why and how were they assessed? The test was administered to all students, except one student whose IEPlan exempted them from all state testing. Number excluded 1 Percent excluded 1.5 Scores are reported here as (check one): NCEs _√__ Scaled Scores ____ 1999-2000 Testing month May SCHOOL SCORES TOTAL OR COMPOSITE SCORE N/A* At or Above Proficient At or Above Excellent Number tested 65 Percent tested 98.5 SUBTEST SCORES SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading At or Above Proficient 97 At or Above Excellent 75 2. Language Arts/English At or Above Proficient 94 At or Above Excellent 45 3. Math At or Above Proficient 93 At or Above Excellent 48 DISTRICT SCORES TOTAL OR COMPOSITE SCORE N/A* At or Above Proficient At or Above Excellent SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading At or Above Proficient 69 At or Above Excellent 29 2. Language Arts/English At or Above Proficient 59 At or Above Excellent 13 3. Math At or Above Proficient 62 At or Above Excellent 13 STATE SCORES TOTAL OR COMPOSITE SCORE N/A* At or Above Proficient At or Above Excellent SUBTEST SCORES 1. Reading At or Above Proficient 71 At or Above Excellent 32 2. Language Arts/English At or Above Proficient 61 At or Above Excellent 16 3. Math At or Above Proficient 65 At or Above Excellent 17 *Scores not available 55 PART VI–SPECIAL EMPHASIS AREA J2. Technology Technology: The school’s use of technology supports both instruction and school management. It has the following characteristics: Vision and Planning: Three years ago, Oak Grove submitted an extensive technology plan, which has earned the school 45 additional desktop units and a Gateway 2000 desktop computer for all teachers and staff. That same school year, the technology committee of the school established a long- range plan for further incorporation of technology based on our school’s needs, and submitted this plan to the school system. The plan included goals for each grade level, hardware needed, the availability of technological support for students housed in portable classrooms, and proposals for further training for the faculty and staff. Our school has been at the forefront of utilizing technology with the school curriculum. Every teacher has completed extensive training in Microsoft Office (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access) and has incorporated this program, the Integrated Learning System (ILS), and other subject- related software into instruction. Because of the high level of usage of technology and interest by the faculty and community, Oak Grove was selected last spring as a pilot school for a wireless laptop lab. This will bring to our school thirty laptops with internet connections using the most current wireless technology and three charging stations with printers. We continue to plan ahead and strive to develop the best plan possible for our school. Prior to receiving the laptop lab, several vendors from top internet service providers visited the school to develop site surveys and benchmark test their technology for the best way to implement the wireless lab on our campus. These suggestions were studied, researched, and discussed with other technology experts in the school system, the community, and with faculty members at the Georgia State University Instructional Technology Center. As instructional utilization of the wireless laptops unfolds, the PTA will provide further support and resources by incorporating long-range planning of technology needs in its budget, based on suggestions from the administration, faculty, parents, and students. Instructional Integration: All students at Oak Grove are provided with experience and practice in utilizing technology, not just with computers, but also with other equipment that supports computer usage. In addition to the wireless lab and teacher desktop units with internet access, several classrooms at Oak Grove have stand-alone and networked desktop units for the students. Additionally, the PTA recently purchased two video data projectors for large group and classroom presentations. Our PTA has purchased six PC-to-TV scan converters, which allows television monitor viewing of technology applications. A destination unit with a 32-inch screen is housed in the Media Center for whole class instruction, and several software programs are available for checkout or use in the Media Center. Oak Grove has other peripheral equipment such as laser disks, scanners, digital cameras, video editing equipment, and a printer in each classroom. Student use of technical applications begins in pre-Kindergarten and continues through fifth grade. In pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, students are provided with age-appropriate software. In first through third grades, students are provided instruction in keyboarding skills and age and ability- appropriate software that supports the curriculum. Beginning with the fourth grade, students use Microsoft Office applications, such and Microsoft Word and PowerPoint to enhance research through writing and presentation skills. Additionally, all students have access to the internet either from the classroom, media center, or laptops. Teachers have received training on locating internet webquests and simulations for student use. Some teachers have even developed their own WebPages and webquests. Another unique component of Oak Grove School, which provides additional opportunities for students to be exposed to technology, is the Flow Room, mentioned previously in the application. Over forty software programs, which support the curriculum, encourage critical thinking, and use of multiple intelligences are housed there. Students can often be seen using these programs or brushing up on their PowerPoint presentation skills. 56 In Georgia, we are fortunate to have the state’s Quality Core Curriculum (QCC) objectives available online. Teachers can access these objectives via their computers while planning instruction and can glean lesson plans and educational websites that support student learning, technology usage, and the curriculum. The teachers at Oak Grove use technology to plan instruction and assess individual student needs in a unique way. For example, last year, an Action Team developed scattergrams using Microsoft Excel to give historical information on each student’s Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) scores. These are updated yearly and teachers are able to develop individual plans for student achievement. Additional test score information on other standardized tests is provided through the school system’s Student Data Management System (SDMS). Professional Development: Oak Grove teachers are never content to sit still once they have learned something. They realize, especially with the rapid advancement of technology, that knowledge of technology is changing continuously. Several teachers and support staff attend yearly technology conferences, inservices, and training. During the summer of 2000, the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC-2000) was attended by four of our teachers, who were able to bring back vast amounts of information for planning for future technological needs. As a result of the valuable information gained from these and other conferences, we were able to acquire knowledge and skills for proposing the possibility of a wireless laptop lab here at Oak Grove. Each year, Oak Grove designs a Staff Development plan for the following school year, based on the school’s goals and needs. Technology utilization is a major goal for our school and because of that, our staff development plan calls for technology training for teachers and staff. We currently offer on-site training for teachers who want to learn to create websites, brush up on using Microsoft Office, learn how to use the various peripheral equipment we have or the computerized grading program offered by the school system. The PTA offers money for staff development training and over the years has provided funds for additional staff development training and conferences. We have even had parents conduct training for teachers at the school to learn how to use nschool.com. Technical Assistance and Support: Oak Grove has a full-time technical support staff member to assist when problems arise or when updates are needed for teachers, students, office staff, administrators, and other educational personnel. When major problems arise that cannot be solved on-site, she serves as the liaison to technical support offered by the district school system office. Many teachers on our staff and even may students have strong computer skills. It is not uncommon to see teachers, students, and parents helping out when computing problems arise. Home and Community Connectivity: Last year, Oak Grove successfully launched its first website where interested parties could access general information about the school. Information about teachers and staff, some of which had email addresses, the school’s mission statement and location, and teacher assignments or webquests could be accessed via the website. This year, due to strong parent and schoolwide interest, Oak Grove began participating in nschool.com, where teachers, school administrators, students, and parents can interact with the school during and after school hours via online message boards, teacher websites, and email. Oak Grove has been very fortunate to have an afterschool computer club for students. Parent volunteers who teach the students about computer hardware and software applications developed this club. Once a year for the past two years, the school has hosted a Technology Night for parents and students to learn about the newest trends in technology.
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