Pickerington Times-Sun

Harmon Middle School cited as one of state's best

'Battelle for Kids' rates school in top 2 percent for student growth

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Harmon Middle School has been recognized as one of Ohio's top schools for student growth and improvement by a national education strategy organization.

Battelle for Kids, a national nonprofit organization that provides strategic counsel and innovative solutions for educational-improvement challenges, last month announced Harmon Middle School is in the top 2 percent of Ohio school buildings for fostering student learning and improvement.

In a letter to Harmon Principal Lea Ann Yoakum, a representative of Battelle for Kids lauded the local school for helping students progress academically beyond state proficiency standards.

"Your building has the distinction of being in the top 2 percent of high achieving buildings in the state of Ohio," wrote Bobby More, senior director of Battelle for Kids.

"From your outstanding accomplishment, schools all over Ohio and the United States can learn and share strategies, best practices and solutions to help better serve students."

Yoakum explained the recognition is based on "value added," one of four components of Ohio's school accountability system.

Value added measures growth or improvement over a period of time to determine the "value" gained by a student during that period of time, Yoakum said.

"We're making more than one year's growth (in learning and classroom performance) with our students," she said.

Yoakum said Harmon has made significant strides in student learning and growth related to reading and math in the past few years after reprioritizing those subject areas.

This year, she said, Harmon teachers are spending 110 minutes per day in reading instruction and 55 minutes per day in math instruction, compared to 45 to 50 minutes of daily instruction in other subjects.

She said those instruction practices were put in place because previous Ohio Achievement Assessment data indicated students needed improvement in reading and math.

"It's a rigorous instructional program," Yoakum said.

"We focus our time, energy, and resources to our building improvement plan, which is in response to what our data indicates are the areas we need to focus on.

"Our teachers are part of that process to make decisions on what affects their instructional practices and what responses are necessary to respond to the data we collect."

According to Yoakum, Harmon currently has approximately 608 students.

They are taught by 24 regular education teachers, six special education teachers and four global-integration team instructors.

It also has staff dedicated to intervention for students falling behind the rest of their classmates, a library media aide and three "paraprofessionals" who assist students in special education.

"I have amazing teachers," Yoakum said. "Without them, this would not be possible.

"They spend countless hours here, after school, on weekends and at home on their own to plan lessons and analyze their own data to see what their students need.

"Never have I worked with teachers that work endlessly to assure all students will succeed and master the grade-level standards," Yoakum said.

"They truly care about their students, and know that the centerpiece of it all is the relationships that they build with their students that makes everything else possible."

Harmon's story is expected to be recognized in an upcoming issue of Battelle for Kids magazine.

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