Piney Grove Middle School was recently identified as one of the state’s low performing schools but school leaders have a plan for how to get the school back on track for educational success.
In a letter sent home to parents of students at the school on Oct. 6 Piney Grove Middle School Principal Steven Hall described how the school had been identified as “low performing.”
“Piney Grove Middle School received a Performance Grade of D, did not meet expected growth, and as a low performing school, is required to develop an improvement plan that specifically addresses how the school will improve both the school performance grade and school growth score,” wrote Hall. “The plan will also include how the superintendent and other central office administrators in the district will work with us and monitor the progress of our school.”
On Monday, Hall presented the plan to the county school board, noting key changes in scheduling which will provide needed tutoring time during the school day.
“We sat down together and came up with this plan and put it before our whole faculty,” said Hall. “Everyone was in agreement that we are headed in the right direction.”
Hall said the school had the highest low socioeconomic population in the county at 59 percent and one of the county’s highest exceptional children populations of 25 percent. He also noted that school had eight new staff members this year and 40 percent of the staff have five or fewer years of teaching experience.
Hall said the school plans to “drill deep” into student data to first identify deficiencies and then create strategies for resolving them.
“We will know what the state says the kids are going to make this year and hone in on the ones who are struggling,” he said. “I changed the whole master schedule around for the school year and implemented a program called P.A.U.S.E. in the middle of the day where our students are getting help. We are breaking them down into groups of eight or nine and they are getting individualized instruction.The majority of our kids ride the bus so now we are able to get them help while they are there every day.”
Hall said the school had also added a variety of programs to get students more involved at the school.
“Every kid in our school is involved in a club this year,” he said. “All 308 of them are in a club. We do those on Fridays. We have a robotics team. We have intramurals this year, and we just joined the Dash MVP Education Program where our teachers will set goals for attendance and grades and they will give us free prizes and at the end of the year all of the students will get to go see a ballgame.”
Hall added that he was working on getting more arts based programming into the school and that athletic participation was at the highest level it had been in years.
He said teachers and other educational support staff were meeting on a regular basis to examine data on the students and plan for remediation efforts.
Hall said that while this was the first time the school had been identified as low performing, it had not been a major drop from academic performance in previous years.
“Our letter grade for the previous year was 54.5 percent and the state rounded it up to 55 which is the bottom grade for a C,” he said. “This year we are 53.5 percent. We dropped one point. It is not like the bottom dropped out. I saw there needed to be some changes and we are all working on this together as a team.”
School Improvement Team Chair and sixth grade teacher Kim Williams said the changes seemed to be working.
“Our classes are shorter, but I don’t get that glazed over look before class is over,” she said. “They don’t have time to get bored or tired and then we have the P.A.U.S.E. to fill in any holes. The kids are buying into it.”
The school board unanimously approved the plan, which will now be sent to the state for review. Parents and teachers are also invited to comment on the plan.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.