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Back on track

Westgate hits education improvement goal

February 1, 2013
Morning Journal News

EAST LIVERPOOL - Westgate Middle School is making educational strides in the right the direction.

Westgate was recently informed by Batelle for Kids, a not-for-profit-company that provides education improvement services, that they have achieved a very high growth rate during the 2011-12 school year.

Batelle set a target education improvement goal for Westgate to meet as a way to encourage student growth. In the 2011-12 school year, Westgate not only met but exceeded the goal set by Batelle.

Article Photos

Students in Mr. Smith’s sixth grade class at Westgate Middle school study bacteria cultures and wrote a short essay about what they saw. Faculty at Westgate have been using new education strategies to enhance the learning process for students. (Submitted Photo)

The East Liverpool Board of Education commended the faculty and staff of Westgate at its Dec. 10 meeting for exceeding expectations. Westgate's outstanding academic improvement put it in the top 2 percent of all Ohio schools in student growth on state tests.

According to principal Linda Henderson, Westgate uses the Value Added system to measure the educational improvement or growth of their students.

The Value Added system works by measuring student's improvement during a set time frame. In the case of Westgate that period was from 2011-12.

"I don't think it's any secret we've had a few rough years in the past." said Henderson.

In 2010, Westgate was given an emergency academic status by the state. From there, faculty began working hard to reverse the trend.

In 2011, the staff's efforts paid off and Westgate was upgraded from academic emergency status to academic watch. "We realized then we still had a lot of work left to do," said Henderson.

Faculty continued efforts to enhance the learning experience for students at Westgate and by the 2011-12 school year they were upgraded to a status of effective.

To achieve this dramatic improvement, teachers utilized a number of different teaching strategies to engage students in the learning process.

One such strategy, which Henderson cited as particularly effective, is called teacher-based teams. Each team consists of two regular teachers as well as an intervention specialist.

Teacher-based teams then meet every other week to review data gathered from a student testing system called STAR testing which gauges student's process in math and reading.

From this testing, data as well as data gathered from other in-class testing, teachers identified which students are having difficulties and which areas students are having difficulties in.

Teachers then divide students up based on their unique educational needs, sometimes working in small groups to give students the individual attention they need.

Every student learns differently, of course, so Westgate made use of different strategies to target different types of learners, according to Henderson.

In some classrooms, teachers had their students take part in manipulative learning activities, in which students manipulate physical objects in order to learn basic mathematic principles. "Some kids learns better with their hands," explained Henderson.

Technology is a growing feature of the modern world and it also played a significant role in engaging students at Westgate.

Students used hand-held electronic testing devices to review testing questions together as a class, and hovercams (the modern equivalent of an overhead projector) to share the process of solving a math question with the whole class.

Inclusion of all students - no matter their learning capabilities - seems to be the core philosophy for educators at Westgate. Teaching strategies and technologies are simply means of realizing that philosophy.



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