The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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February 27, 2013

District underscores aim to believe in students

CLINTON — The success of a student is closely tied to whether a teacher believes that child can succeed, according to Clinton School District Curriculum Director John Jorgensen.  

While the Clinton School District has some work to do in order to get all staff on board with this concept, the efforts are being made to accomplish that goal by the beginning of next school year.  

 During the Clinton School Board’s Monday night meeting, Jorgensen discussed data that has been collected since the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year. All building principals rate their building based on how well they are implementing the district’s vision focus on collaborative learning in professional learning communities and early, systematic assistance to struggling students through response to intervention.

The data from all schools is then compiled and averaged to give an idea of where the district stands through the stewardship of the vision report.  

The rating system is broken down into 18 categories, including whether staff has reached a consensus that all students who will one day be taxpayers are capable of learning to grade level expectations.

“None of this works unless the teachers, staff believes every child can learn,” Jorgensen said.

If a teacher doesn’t believe a student in their class can learn, the teacher will begin to send subtle messages to that child, Jorgensen said. Teachers might not wait as long for a response from a student they don’t believe knows the answer. Other subtleties include asking a child easier questions or having them participate less in the learning process if they are perceived by a teacher to be unable to learn at their grade level.  

The self-rating system used is one to four points, with one meaning the task hasn’t been started and a four meaning it is fully implemented. In regards to belief in students’ learning capabilities, the district is at a 2.5. The goal is to be fully implemented in this goal by August of this year.  

“If you don’t believe a kid can learn, they’re not going to. Expectations are everything,” Jorgensen said. “You need to understand it’s a belief system and without that belief system, RTI doesn’t work. Hardly anything works without the belief that you can do it.”

In addition to focusing on teachers’ beliefs in students, school board members diverted their attention to other challenges in the district, as well as the data about attendance and student referrals.  

According to the report, attendance in the first trimester is down when compared to the same period from the previous two school years. In the first trimester of the 2010-2011 school year, the district had a 94.2 percent attendance rate, compared to 93.7 percent in the first semester of the current year.

On the other hand, referrals have decreased, specifically at Washington Middle School and Clinton High School. The district went from 16.3 referrals a day in the first semester of the 2010-2011 school year to 12.5 a day during the same time this year.  

According to Jorgensen, the school district’s focus on PLC’s and RTI is in line with the state’s goals. It will also push students to complete their education and be prepared to step into the workforce or college classroom, he said.

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