Delaware News

District works to get good read on what students know

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Delaware schools this year will focus on ways to include more blended learning options in the curriculum, as well as improving assessments for students.

Former Dempsey Middle School Principal Andy Hatton has stepped into the role of director of student services, since Jake Tawney accepted a new position in Arizona last month.

Julie German has been named Dempsey's principal, and Steve Ringer, formerly of River Valley Local Schools, has been hired as assistant principal, German's former position.

Hatton said in the next school year, his department will work to implement adjustments to the new teacher evaluation system and encourage new ways for teachers to evaluate students' understanding throughout the year.

Hatton said the Ohio Achievement Assessments are a great way to gauge what students have learned, but by the time the scores come out, students are already out of school -- too late to make changes.

"I view the OAA testing like an autopsy: They help us understand if our learners grasped the concepts and skills they were being taught, but we can't make any adjustments at that point," he said.

Currently, teachers check how much material students are absorbing via entrance and exit slips, which ask students to write down what they remember from the previous day's lessons and test their understanding before they leave the classroom.

"We don't want to send kids home and have them spend an hour doing their homework incorrectly; that doesn't help anything," Hatton said. "We want to have numerous checkpoints all along the way to make sure they really understand the material."

Some teachers provide small whiteboards to their students and ask them to write down the answers to questions during class.

"This is a low-tech, quick way to get results immediately," Hatton said. "We have other high-tech ways to check understanding, but the point is that we are checking along the way. Checking for understanding frequently is a proven way to help students continue to grow."

Assistant Superintendent Brad Faust said the district will implement new MAP assessments this year. The tests track the growth of students at least three times during the year.

He said the exams will help teachers improve instruction throughout the year before waiting until state testing results are released.

Faust added the district will initiate new blended-learning programs such as Dempsey One-to-One that integrate technology.

"Our kids are connected all the time ... and not just our kids, but all of us," he said. "The fact is that when a child leaves our district, they are going to take a job (where) they are required to use a computer.

"Part of our job now is to prepare students with the skills they need to walk into a job and be able to use the technology."

Faust said devices are necessary, but technology can't replace teaching.

"Computers are a sophisticated version of a pencil and paper," he said. "We are using these devices to help our students learn."

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