Nieman Elementary staff makes group effort in test score improvement
A collective cheer went up Monday when Annette Vickers, sixth-grade teacher at Nieman Elementary, announced to her class that they could open the Prodigy game on their iPads.
“I think it’s fair to say they’re excited about math now,” Vickers said.
The math game allows students to play each other using a curriculum Vickers assigns, and Vickers can later log into her computer to see what problems the students missed and what she may need to reteach.
The game is one of many ways teachers at the Shawnee school were able to raise its sixth-grade state assessment math scores last year despite facing challenges given students’ socio-economic status, earning it a Challenge Award from the Kansas Public Education Task Force, which it received in a ceremony at the school Friday. School officials say the improvement was a team effort that involved many aspects.
Principal Stan Anderson said the school has a large population of English language learners and children of single parents or parents who didn’t receive higher education, so part of what was needed was parental buy-in.
“For us it’s a community effort, we need our parents, the community of Shawnee, and we have that together with a wonderful teaching staff and kids that buy in to what needs to be done,” he said. “We don’t expect parents to teach math, we expect them to provide the support for that success … we want the parents just to do all they can to support their child and encourage them.”
Vickers said it was also a team effort from the teaching staff’s point of view: improving collaboration and lesson planning among sixth-grade staff, an incredible support staff and after-school math enrichment opportunities.
“We plan everything as a team,” Vickers said. “We strategically plan what we’re teaching, and we’re all on board. We have a math specialist in the building, too, so we have those resources available.”
She said the new College and Career Readiness Curriculum has allowed teachers to dig deeper into the curriculum standards and provide a lot of hands-on and project-based learning. In a recent project, “Rethink your drink,” students explored fractions, decimals and percents.
“We took the drinks they are drinking and we used our ratio of percent, decimels and proportions to figure out what percent of the drink was sugar,” Vickers said. “Being able to connect, making the curriculum more relevant, is another thing (that’s helped).”
As mentioned before, Vickers said enhancement through applications and websites also was a great help.
Anderson added teachers have been able to make math testing easier for English language learners by teaching strategies that help them identify what is most important as they problem solve.
“For our sixth-graders to maybe earn a Challenge Award in English language arts, reading, that would be really special, because of the dual language learning,” Anderson said.
Neiman was one of five Shawnee Mission School District schools awarded Challenge Awards; among them in the Shawnee area, Shawanoe also was recognized for improvements in sixth-grade reading and received its certificate of merit Feb. 19. Across the state, the award was given to 99 schools.