Pickerington Times-Sun

2014: looking ahead

Walker: Analysis of calendar, teacher development key

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Rethinking the traditional school day and providing teachers with tools to address specific student needs will be keys to enhancing achievement in 2014, according to Pickerington's top school administrator.

Pickerington Local School District Superintendent Rob Walker said he views 2014 as an important year for reshaping how and when teachers provide instruction to students, as well as reaching both its highest- and lowest-performing pupils.

"We are in a transformation of education that's taking place right now," Walker said. "We're going to start doing things that really impact how teachers teach and students learn.

"It's a change of culture."

For the remainder of the 2013-14 school year and into 2014-15, Walker said, the district will be focused on implementing new Common Core curriculum already adopted in 45 states, which are designed to make students more prepared to enter the 21st century "global market place" upon graduation.

School officials also will continue to comply with new Ohio Department of Education systems for evaluating teachers and principals based on how well students are learning, he said.

Additionally, Walker said, the district is developing methods to improve its performance on the new ODE State Report Card, which handed the district three A's, two B's and four C's last August.

All of the work, Walker said, will allow the district to achieve its motto, "Every Child, Every Day, Whatever It Takes!"

At the forefront of those efforts is work conducted by K-6 and secondary scheduling committees.

Particularly at the secondary level, or junior high and high school, teachers, administrators and the Pickerington School Board this year are expected to consider options for revising the school day and calendar to allow for longer and more specialized instruction.

Last month, the secondary scheduling committee recommended classes to be offered before and after the traditional 7:20 a.m. to 1:55 p.m. school day, as well as on weekends.

The plan also proposed students from the district's two high schools could, on an as-needed basis, shuttle to specific classes being offered in the respective buildings.

Additionally, district officials will consider reducing lunch periods from one hour to 30 minutes so classroom instruction can be extended from 45 minutes to an hour.

"We're starting to make decisions based on what's coming up from teacher-based teams and building-based teams," Walker said.

"The whole idea is, 'What can we do with our resources that maximize students' achievement?'

"This is a departure from what we've always done."

Another initiative Walker expects to gain traction in 2014 will be increased focus on "subgroups" within the district.

That movement was sparked by the district's performance on the state report card.

It received C's related to learning growth -- the amount of progress a student makes within an academic year -- among its "gifted," disabled, English-learning and lowest-performing students.

Walker said the district is assessing how much it spends per pupil in each subgroup and comparing that to similar districts whose subgroups are outperforming local students.

He expects the result to be more integration of disabled and lower-performing students in with the rest of the student body's classrooms.

Additionally, the district will assess finances in hopes of providing more teaching intervention for students who need assistance, and the possible restoration of some teaching and intervention specialist positions cut in 2011 because of budget shortfalls.

Many, if not all, of the new staff would work with gifted and lower-performing students.

"It's really looking at student performance, and meeting the needs of all students," Walker said. "We look at some of our subgroups and there is a need to do a better job of teaching them.

"We believe we can grow our students at more than one year," he said.

"You can't do that full, inclusionary teaching for students with special needs or gifted students on a budget that does penny pinching in every area."

Lastly, Walker said he's committed to enhancing communications with parents and the community, and he wants to push for the provision of more elective classes for students in junior high and high school.

He said the latter efforts will better prepare students to be career- and college-ready when they graduate.

"It's very important that kids have a choice of electives," Walker said.

"Those classes help kids, once they get into high school, decide what direction they want to pursue and what classes they want to take.

"You don't need to hit the bull's eye, but hopefully that puts you on a (career-track) goal."

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