2005-12-22 / Front Page

Island students make the grade in high school

By Donna K. Drago

Kindergarten teacher Beverly Green was honored by the School Committee for her recent National Education Board certification. Green is the fourth teacher at the Jamestown schools to be nationally recognized. Photo by Kathy Brownell Kindergarten teacher Beverly Green was honored by the School Committee for her recent National Education Board certification. Green is the fourth teacher at the Jamestown schools to be nationally recognized. Photo by Kathy Brownell Now that the software to collect student data from the high school has been updated and made more accessible to the Jamestown School District, Superintendent Kathy Sipala gave the School Committee the first of many future reports about how Jamestown students are really doing at North Kingstown High School.

“This is a big question that comes up often,” Sipala told the board at its Dec. 15 meeting. The question has often been discussed, without the benefit of actual data, “at SIT (School Improvement Team) meetings, among parents, and among ourselves,” she added.

Until lately, most of the information that came to Jamestown administrators from NKHS was “anecdotal,” Sipala said.

“It’s always been difficult to get the real data,” she said.

Among the anecdotal information given to the Jamestown schools in recent years is that the island students “are very project based.”

They have “good study skills,” and in math, “our kids use calculators a lot” and their “basic skills are not as good” as their North Kingstown-educated peers, Sipala said.

Sipala said that she had grades in each subject for each Jamestown freshman student at NK for the first quarter of this year, and she was also able to get the figures for the 2003-04 school year.

The data shows that “our students did as well as or better than” the North Kingstown students.

In Spanish, Sipala said, more Jamestown students go directly into Spanish II, versus Spanish I, than do freshmen from North Kingstown.

“I’m very pleased with the Spanish results,” Sipala told the school panel, adding, “We’re right on.”

In math, the Jamestown students ranked “as good as or slightly better” than North Kingstown students, the superintendent noted.

“We’re now getting a more solid base in algebra in grade 8,” she said.

There were two isolated sections of Algebra I in which “particular students” did not perform well, she pointed out.

“Perhaps they were not recommended to the right course,” Sipala suggested, noting that NK has a math program called “bridges,” which is a lower-level algebra course for students who struggle with that subject.

One thing that Sipala learned from the newly available information is, “We need more practice with on-demand testing.”

Since Jamestown students have a standards-based curriculum and often get several chances to meet the standards, they are not used to being given surprise quizzes.

In other business, the School Committee:

• Heard from Sipala that she is recommending a seven-teacher junior high for next year, with three teachers in grade 7 and four in grade 8.

To reduce the number of grade 7 teachers, Sipala proposed that one would teach three sections of English and one section of social studies, another would teach two sections of social studies and three sections of science, and the third would teach three sections of math.

Sipala recommended that grade 8 be left intact for the upcoming year.

The superintendent asked the board to come to a decision about junior high staffing by its Jan. 5 meeting.

• Learned that the anticipated year-end surplus will be about $275,000 this year.

• Heard that the Special Education Local Advisory Committee will host Carol West, the special education director at North Kingstown High School, in a talk to parents of junior high school students about the transition to the high school. The session will take place on Jan. 10.

• Recognized kindergarten teacher Beverly Green for becoming a nationally board certified teacher — a grueling process that can take up to a year to accomplish.

Sipala called Green’s success “an exceptional achievement.”

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