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In 2017-18, less than one out of every two fifth graders at Jones Elementary School was proficient in science.
After summer school, the percentage had risen slightly to 50.4% proficient.
A year later, the school’s fifth grade science scores had leapt to 81% after summer school.
Jones led all elementary schools with the highest gains in Wilson County.
Fifth grade science increased 9.4% to 79.7% proficient among all 14 elementary schools in the district, which was one of the highlights in accountability scores the N.C. Department of Public Instruction released Sept. 4.
“I think that the gains were made primarily through the focus of the teacher, making sure that they understood the curriculum, they could unpack the standards and then turn around and teach those standards in a way the students could understand the standards and then could apply them,” said Jones Elementary School Principal Liz Jenkins.
Jenkins said science became relevant to them.
“That’s one of the main reasons why we had such good growth,” she said.
Jenkins also pointed to the work of science teachers Jeremy Kirby and Kristin Lamond.
Lamond taught one science class and Kirby, a first-year-teacher, taught four classes. Kirby is now teaching all science classes this year, with Lamond as his mentor.
“Jeremy Kirby is a phenomenal teacher,” Jenkins said. “He eats, breathes, lives science.”
“One of the reasons you are going to see those science scores jump is because of collaboration,” Jenkins said. “He does a lot with 21st-century skills, getting children to talk. It’s more about the collaborative efforts that the children are working together on. They solve these problems that they come up with together and it is very teacher-centered.”
Kirby said his students started the year with less than average scores, below where they needed to be.
“We didn’t let that discourage us,” Kirby said. “We just kept pushing students forward and we did as much encouragement as possible to show them where their capabilities were and even though we are starting at this place, our goal is still going to be 80% or higher, and we never let that goal drop down below.”
“Even when students were frustrated, even if they were not feeling good that day, even in the midst of Florence messing up our school days, we kept pushing forward,” Kirby said. “Making sure that students are uplifted and encouraged to learn sets the precedent for actually giving them the material and then studying the vocabulary and progressing academically. They have to be engaged before you can even start the instruction.”
There is not yet a new science, technology engineering and math lab at Jones Elementary School with gadgetry to entice student interest.
Instead, Kirby got to know his students and used their interest in the popular video game Fortnite as a catalyst for learning.
“Even if it is an animated version, you can still see some of the scientific elements in some of the video games that they play or some of the sports that they play,” Kirby said. “So during football season, we were talking about forces in motion. We used some of those illustrations in class. Being able to relate to their own experiences will triumph over any lack of actually technology that you may have.”
OTHER DISTRICT HIGHLIGHTS
During the Wilson County Board of Education’s Sept. 16 meeting, Superintendent Lane Mills highlighted several bright spots from the performance data.
Wilson County Schools increased overall grade level proficiency 9.8% over the last three years.
“That represents the biggest gain in the entire state,” Mills said. “We are holding our own and moving up.”
WCS moved up in North Carolina rankings to 58th among the state’s 115 school districts.
Wilson County was ranked 90th in 2016 with a 47.4 grade level proficiency, 89th in 2017 with a 48.5 GLP and 59th in 2018 with a 57.6 GLP.
After summer testing, the district added 567 students to the list with proficient scores.
WCS has school performance grades of A,B or C in 80% of its schools. The district reduced the number of schools with D or F grades to five. In 2016, 13 schools had Ds or Fs.
End-of-grade and end-of-course proficiency for the district overall was down by 0.4%, however, if N.C. Math 3 scores are removed, the district is up 0.3%.
End-of-grade reading scores increased 0.4% in proficiency, while EOG math decreased 1% in proficiency.
End-of-course scores increased 3.4%in proficiency, which includes English 2, Math 1 and biology.
The number of schools with overall proficiency above 60% rose from 11 schools in 2017-19 to 12 schools in 2018-19.
In 2017-18, 16 of the district’s 26 schools increased overall proficiency, while last year, 19 schools had increased proficiency.
Some 16 of the district’s 26 schools met or exceeded Education Value-Added Assessment System growth, with nine schools exceeding growth.