iPads are elementary Smooth transitions and career-oriented curriculum also part of principal discussion

By on November 28, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Principals in the Ephrata Area School District presented their grade level goals to the school board last week.

In the Ephrata district, elementary schools cover grades kindergarten through fourth. For this grouping, principals have outlined plans pertaining to reading, namely that all students leaving fourth grade will be reading at their grade level as determined by GRADE (Group Reading Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation) and PSSA.

To achieve this goal, the schools plan to implement common core standards for each month in each classroom. This will include creating integrated lesson plans and analyzing the Houghton Mifflin reading series to promote higher order thinking skills. Plans are underway to implement new technology as part of the strategy, using iPads and a program called Fast ForWord.

Elementary principals plan on holding individual meetings with teachers to monitor and discuss performance against district benchmark data on reading, in addition to other subjects. And student progress will be tracked using multiple assessment measures.

Elementary schools have also set a goal of providing additional support and monitoring of key subgroups of students within each building. During individual meetings between teachers, support personnel and the principals, interventions and instructional strategies will be reviewed and fine-tuned as necessary. Attendance and goals from Individualized Educational Plans will also be reviewed and monitored on a regular basis. Additional diagnostic assessments will then be utilized as needed to further target student growth.

"At the elementary level we understand the awesome responsibility of building the foundation for future learning," commented Highland Elementary School Principal Kevin Deemer. "Using multiple measures, we have been pleased with the progress our students have made recently. As a district, we continue to look at our program systematically and find ways to help our students achieve at higher levels. Our goal is to build a solid foundation that will allow students to be successful throughout their EASD career and beyond."

Ephrata’s Intermediate School is comprised of students from the fifth, sixth and seventh grades. In that school, principal Gangi Cucciuffo and assistant principal Eric Martin outlined a goal to establish a school culture that prioritizes student success. This will be done by revising the fifth grade teaming structure. It will also provide professional development opportunities with the fourth grade aimed at creating a more successful transition for students from elementary into intermediate school.

Principals plan on providing direction to teacher planning meetings to ensure a focus on instruction practice. They also plan to provide overlapping support with the elementary schools through shared personnel.

At the middle school, which in Ephrata includes grades seven and eight, Cucciuffo (principal at both the Intermediate and Middle schools) along with Assistant Principal Russ Garman outlined plans for an increased emphasis on the school’s ability to have all students experience success while in middle school, while properly preparing them to move on to high school. As such, they plan to implement a schedule which provides students with more core instruction, support and choice. It also targets improved performance against PSSA and Keystone benchmarks by establishing a math course sequence which enables students to achieve success. The eighth grade will see the implementation of a career choices curriculum which will begin focusing students on a career path.

With the Intermediate and Middle schools essentially different wings of one large building and sharing a principal, that makes it possible to implement building-wide goals of developing coherent practices throughout grades 5-8 to academically and behaviorally support students.

Cucciuffo commented on the goals:

"At the Intermediate School, we are concentrating on ensuring solid, coherent and successful teaching of skills through collaboration," said Cucciuffo. "Our Middle School teachers have begun to add even more relevance to their daily teaching by having students make connections to real world skill application and showing students the long range need for many skills. Students are given support from Intermediate and Middle school teachers, staff and each other to achieve the behavioral and academic responsibility goals at each level. This will continue to prepare them for their schooling career and beyond."

At the high school, Principal Joane Eby and her two assistants, Ken Grove and Kristin Holst, outlined a goal to continue developing a seamless academic and social transition of ninth grade students into high school. The Advisory Period will be utilized to focus on personalization of the educational program through ice breaker activities coupled with learning activities. This goal will also see implementation of consistent grading rigors throughout grades nine through 12 by expanding the "Common Grading Procedures" already developed for the ninth grade teachers, for use in the remaining grades.

Eby, Grove and Holst also pinpointed goals which emphasize reading and writing literacy skills. All teachers, regardless of course content, will utilize strategies that will improve students’ overall literacy skills. The higher thinking levels (3 and 4) of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge will be applied to lesson design across all content areas. And the school’s curriculum will become aligned with Keystone standards.

Eby commented, "We are pleased with the progress of our ninth grade class this year. The new uniformity of grading procedures in our core ninth grade classes has clarified expectations for the students. The improvement seen in ninth grade scores during the first quarter of this year is notable, and we believe this common focus has helped move the class in this positive direction."

In other district news, it was with regret that the school board approved the retirement of Akron’s principal, Dr. Enrica Gerhart, effective Feb. 20, 2013.

District public relations director Stephanie Gingrich issued a statement from the school administration on the retirement.

"Dr. Gerhart was an excellent leader," it read. "She provided an environment of success for all. Throughout her tenure in the Ephrata Area School District, she dedicated herself to providing the very best to the students and families she serves. She always put their needs first. Her background in early childhood learning has helped the district launch several exciting early childhood initiatives, including collaborations with local groups. We wish her the best as she spends greatly deserved time with her family."

School board president Timothy Stayer echoed the sentiment, saying he wishes they could "not" accept it because he will hate to see Dr. Gerhart retire, but added he wishes her the very best. More SCHOOL BOARD, page A16

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