Germantown - For administrators at Kennedy Middle School and Germantown High School, behavioral climate and culture are intertwined with academic success.
Therefore, the improvement plans in both these schools focus on boosting academic achievement and teaching positive behavior. These action plans, and the schools' progress, were presented to the Germantown School Board last week.
Various things are taking place in Kennedy Middle School, including piloting Response to Intervention strategies. Through in-service meetings, teachers are also working on new curriculum that brings the School District in alignment with the state mandated common core.
One component to help student achievement is digitally focused. KMS Principal Susan Climer said they are working with the media resource librarian to launch a program for teachers to post all homework on the Internet, which both parents and students can access at any time.
"We're doing a lot of exciting work on the academic side," Climer said.
Positive behavior emphasized
The behavioral piece has five components: Positive Behavioral Intervention Strategies, communication, homeroom groups, G-talks, and alcohol and other drug abuse programming.
PBIS is a way to teach positive behavior practices to students, from the way they should behave in the classroom to student assemblies. The core of PBIS is teaching students what type of behavior is expected of them, and then reinforcing it.
For example, staff now uses "hand tools," A fist means "quiet," holding one finger up means "whisper," and so on.
"There is a marked difference in a very positive way," Superintendent Susan Borden said of the success of PBIS and positive changes to student behavior.
KMS is also focusing on communicating with parents and gathering feedback from staff. G-Talks, said Assistant Principal Mark Kaminski, mean students will discuss a learning plan starting in middle school that encompasses their post secondary education and career goals.
Improving the climate
The high school also has its own improvement plan. A few years ago, a large group of administrators sat down to look at climate and culture in school and found that if "you don't have the appropriate climate and culture you don't have the best learning environment," said high school Principal Joel Farren.
So, they came up with a plan.
The high school improvement plan consisted of expanding assessment opportunities for students, such as scholarship opportunities, reconfiguring at-risk programming, and increasing the number of G-Talk conferences. The plan also included Project Lead The Way certification, which the high school received last year. PLTW classes are engineering and technology focused.
The high school has also conducted numerous surveys to gauge improvement in various areas. For example, the end-of-the-year freshmen survey showed gains in student comfort level at school.
"We plan to add a back-to-school night specific for freshmen to welcome students back and help them feel more comfortable," Assistant Principal Marc Lehnerer said.
He said they did experience a decline in morale of teachers and support staff, which they are addressing this year.
Since implementing different strategies in the high school, more students are taking the ACT test, there is a decline in the truancy rate - the lowest rate in 12 years - and the school continues to perform in the top 10 percent in the state.
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