Committee outlines goals

FAIRMONT – Fairmont Area School’s staff development curriculum committee met Wednesday for an intensive review of the school year.

Following the meeting, the group gave a report to the school board. It describes a researched-based plan to get staff – teachers, paraprofessionals, specialists – on the same page when it comes to district goals.

Incoming Principal Kim Niss said the group reviewed evidence-based educational studies by John Hattie and Robert Marzano. It then determined three areas of focus from a list of 10 classroom methods deemed most effective for improving student achievement.

The group, which includes eight teachers, administrative personnel, a paraprofessional, a parent and others, deemed self-reporting of grades, formative assessment and feedback as areas in which the district should provide training and support.

Niss said these areas were chosen because they form a loop: A student should be able to accurately assess his understanding of a topic and shouldn’t be surprised by the results of an assessment. A teacher should be able to give constructive feedback to a student, more than just reporting a grade on a project.

Teacher Sara Gudahl said having conversations with colleagues on these topics is helpful in the classroom.

“I think our students have been trained to want to have the right answer,” she said, “and don’t want to say if they don’t understand something. … I find out on the test weeks later they didn’t get it.”

In the past, teachers have chosen goals individually from a list of strategies, but Niss is looking forward to having the whole staff working on the same goals.

“Focusing on these three things is a really good thing,” she said. “We are all on an island. I might be focusing on study habits while [another teacher] is focusing on classroom dialogue. We need to come together and focus on the same goals.”

The committee also reviewed and updated the district’s Education Improvement Plan, and reviewed the Multiple Measures Ratings for students.

MMR replaced the federal No Child Left Behind accountability system by adding student growth and progress measures to proficiency testing results in assessing school districts.

Fairmont is making high marks for its focused domains – a fancy term for sub-groups such as special education, and free-and-reduced lunch populations. However, school officials say white kids in core subjects need some more attention.