Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Time change helps students

Covington now provides support during school

By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - The school system here had a problem: Struggling students weren't staying after school for help, even though the district was paying to make it available.

Solution: Offer the instruction during the school day instead.

Result: Gains in writing scores at the two elementary schools involved, and passing algebra grades for 35 out of 52 high-school students on the verge of failing.

The turnaround was possible in part due to a new state rule that allows money earmarked for after-school instruction to be used during the day instead.

During the school year that just ended, about 60 fourth-graders with writing weaknesses were identified at Thomas Edison and John G. Carlisle elementary schools. Teacher Heather Gillman was hired to work with them every day, for 30 minutes at a time, alternating weeks at each school.

These students were writing pieces for their portfolios. Each student produces a collection of work that gets scored at the end of the year as part of the state's assessment system. Covington officials recently analyzed the results: Carlisle's average portfolio score went up 11 points and Thomas Edison's by 26.

The old approach - expecting low-performing students to stay after school - had always been problematic, says Joyce Harris, coordinator of extended school services for the district.

Many kids simply wouldn't stay. Teachers also were hard to find, even though they got extra pay for the extended hours, Harris says.

By working during the school day, Gillman was able to eat lunch with classroom teachers and learn how each student was progressing, says Elaine Demoret, a writing resource teacher in the district.

"That's something that really gave it some power," Demoret says.

At Holmes High School, the district provided extra math instruction to about 60 ninth-graders who had failed math in middle school.

All were in danger of doing the same in high-school algebra. But working with teacher Mary Kelsch during the school day, more than half the students ended up passing.

E-mail kgutierrez@enquirer.com

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