'We have some work to do'

Zoe Greszler • Mar 20, 2018 at 9:00 AM

WILLARD — In light of less-than-perfect indicators, the Willard school board took time to discuss its approach in teaching mathematics, writing and school culture.

The school’s most recent scores showed it excels in the sciences, with 65.2 percent of students testing proficient in the biology course. That is compared to the national average of 61.1 percent; another 77.2 percent were proficient in U.S. history and a whopping 85.9 percent flew through government class, compared to the national average of 68.7 and 72.1 percents respectively.

Math though, was a little bit of a different story as only 34 percent of the Willard students tested proficiently in the school’s algebra class, as opposed to the national average of 45.3 percent and similar districts’ 37.9 percent.

Geometry was even worse, with just 29.9 percent, compared to the nation’s 42.9.

“We definitely struggle in math,” high school Principal Chris Schaaf said. “We do a lot better in history and government. These are some of the indicators we need as a high school. ... We have some work to do obviously.”

One thing school officials discussed was the possibility of adding an algebra text book to the course, which currently doesn’t have one.

“The course is a lot more stringent than it used to be,” Schaaf said. “It's more of what the state expects now. ... That was one area where we need to step it up. We didn’t have books for algebra — it was just teacher-driven material, but that just wasn't getting it done.”

The school also started a program called “Fantastic Flashes,” used to help students having the hardest time.

“These are kids (who) struggle big time,” Schaaf said, adding it could be across the board, in all courses. “We identify them as incoming freshman and the idea is to work with them to make them as successful as possible.”

Schaaf said as part of that program, even if the assignment is late, the teachers are told for this student, they are still to accept the work.

“If the student gets it done, the teacher will take it because there are kids (who) in eighth grade have really struggled,” he said.

The district participates in “PBIS,” or Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports, activities focused on encouraging students to do and be better. As part of that, Shaaf said the high school chose three R's to focus on — respect, responsibility and resilience.

“These are areas we felt our kids struggled with,” he said. “We think resiliency is something we need to really focus on. If it gets difficult, how do you teach a student to fight through and rise above. That’s what we want to focus on.”

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