COLUMBUS — Three Southern Local administrators were selected to present at the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) Capital Conference and Trade Show earlier this week at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in downtown Columbus.
Presenting on the topic of the headlining theme — PRIDE: A Student Incentive Program — were Kent Wolfe, grades 4-8 Principal, Tricia McNickle, Pre-K to Grade 3 Principal, and Scott Wolfe, Federal Programs/Special Education Director at the Southern Local School District.
The group was chosen based on the recent success of the Southern Elementary School, which has remained highly rated as either “Effective” or “Excellent” over the past five years of the program. Each of the Southern participants stressed that it has been a team effort of community, parents, students, and teachers buying into and working hard at establishing change and implementing new programs at Southern.
The Capital Conference features nationally acclaimed speakers headlining the General Sessions, Early Bird Workshop, luncheons and other events. Breakout sessions and informational seminars examine creative solutions and proactive approaches to a broad spectrum of public educational challenges. Southern Local has exhibited techniques that are among those proactive approaches advocated by the OSBA.
Other Capital Conference highlights include the Student Achievement Fair, boasting 100 booths displaying innovative student programs, as well as top student entertainment groups from each of OSBA s five regions; the Trade Show, offering more than 650 exhibits of the latest in education-related goods and services; and countless opportunities to share ideas with school leaders from across Ohio.
Also attending the conference were Southern Superintendent Tony Deem, and Southern School Board members Denny Hill, president; Denny Evans, Peggy Gibbs and Paul Harris.
Kim Halley, Director of Elementary Education at Hilliard City Schools, was the moderator for the Southern session. Halley introduced the Southern presenters and moderated questions for the trio from the many participants in the audience.
Kent Wolfe began the presentation, highlighting school district demographics and outlining where the school had been academically six years ago to where it has performed over the past five years.
Wolfe noted, “Our incentive program is just a part of our success. We have incorporated the incentive program into many other strategies that we have taken to our staff, and that the staff has embraced to make our students better prepared for the future.”
Scott Wolfe commented on Southern’s transition to a “full inclusion” type classroom in the K-8 grades, and how that had helped students with special needs increase test scores and grow academically.
“We have incentive programs within the Special Education department that are within the PRIDE schoolwide incentives.” Scott Wolfe noted. “Students like to compete and we try to give them something to shoot for.”
The Special Education Director added, “One of the main positives over the past three years has been our teachers’ growth and our teachers’ ability to Co-teach at a highly effective level. Co-Teaching is one of our strengths, and I praise our staff for doing a great job. With the coming of the new State Report Card, we are going to have to raise the bar again for both our teachers and our students.”
Kent Wolfe then broke down the many incentives that the school has incorporated. Wolfe noted, “We have done everything from ‘sleep-on-the-roof’ to ‘kissing a pig’ to taking our students on field trips to reward them for a great effort. Our kids are really competitive and they respond to the incentives. Everyone wants to win.”
Southern has regularly rewarded students with trips to Kings Island, Cincinnati Reds games, trips to Camden Park, and trips to Zoombezi Bay Water Park among many other reward trips. These trips were widely made possible through efforts from the Southern PTO, area businesses and other fundraising efforts.
After Wolfe broke down all the various student incentives from class/grade level incentives to individual incentives, from District to classroom incentives, Math Coach and now K-3 Principal Tricia McNickle spoke about the Math Coaching Program.
McNickle noted that Southern began the Math Coaching Program seven years ago and that from that time Southern math scores had raised from percentages in the “teens” to over 80 percent at some class levels.
“The very first year, some teachers sat their text books aside. We began a different way of teaching and took a different approach to teaching math,” McNickle said. “The next year—when textbooks were up for adoption— we purchased books (Everyday Math) that fit the Math Coaching philosophy.”
“Each year we saw the student scores rise significantly. The coaching philosophy is based on building critical thinking skills rather than just memorizing facts. It took some huge adjustments from everyone at first, but our students are now working math problems in a more effective way,” she added.
McNickle has since become a statewide Math Coach and is now in charge of 22 school districts with math coaching programs in the southeast district. The Mathematics Coaching Program (MCP) is currently working with over 60 schools across Ohio, most of which are mathematically low-performing urban and rural schools and is funded from multiple sources with additional sources pending.
The initial and primary funder is the Ohio Department of Education. ODE funding is awarded with the understanding that the MCP will follow research-based guidelines for effective professional development and instruction and base program content and instruction on state and national mathematics standards.
The MCP, centered at The Ohio State University, is a professional development intervention implemented on-site in schools. The program pursues multiple objectives in those schools including improving student achievement and strengthening teacher and coach mathematics content knowledge.
Keynote presenters at the 2013 Capital Conference included Ohio native Wil Haygood, a prize-winning Washington Post staff writer; whose article was the inspiration for the Movie “Lee Daniels, the Butler”; Dr. Yon Zhao, nationally known author; and John Ratzenberger, Emmy-nominated actor, who is best known for playing the character Cliff Clavin on the sitcom “Cheers”.