More intensive instruction in reading, writing and math has shown results at J.W. Faulk Elementary School this school year, but School Board support is also needed to maintain the progress, Principal Jamilah Hicks told board members recently.
At one time, there was a plan to provide the school additional resources, including a second assistant principal who would handle discipline, Hicks told the board. A second assistant principal would enable Hicks and her current assistant principal, Courtney Zammit, to continue their work of supervising the implementation of curriculum in the classroom, she said.
“I know things are very much in the air with the budget, but we hope that’s something that could still be considered in the fall, so Mrs. Zammit and I could focus on curriculum implementation,” Hicks said.
She and Zammit conduct walkthroughs of classrooms daily to provide feedback to teachers.
“We have classrooms that we’re assigned to go into every day,” Hicks said. “By the end of a three-week period, we have seen everyone in the school.”
Hicks gave the board an update on the school’s progress since several changes were implemented this school year to boost performance at the district’s lowest-performing school. The school has received an F letter grade from the state based on accountability measures for the past three years, though in that time, state accountability standards have become more rigorous.
Some of the initiatives implemented this school year include starting students’ day with a two-hour block of English language arts. That’s in addition to a 30-minute intensive tutoring session for those students who need additional help learning skills. The school also hired additional tutors to work with students during the school day. Saturday study sessions and after-school test prep also have been popular among students, and the school provides transportation, Hicks said.
Parental involvement also has seen a boost this year with the help of a staff member who’s focused on outreach, Hicks said.
“We’re seeing an outpouring of parental support this year, and we’re grateful for that,” Hicks told the board.
Overall, students have charted gains on assessments that were taken in fall and winter that gauge their growth in skill areas. The tests also have helped pinpoint areas where students need additional help, such as in writing skills, Hicks said.
Before being hired as principal last summer, Hicks first took over as interim principal at the school last spring and was previously assistant principal at the school. There were several issues the school had to overcome, such as a curriculum that wasn’t implemented with fidelity, an ineffective academic intervention program and discipline problems.
“As assistant principal there for two years, I was constantly spinning my wheels putting out fires,” Hicks said. “As a whole, we had a negative school culture and climate from the students down to the staff. Now, we are happy to report a lot of differences at our school.”
Hicks said discipline referrals fell by 74 percent compared to last year.
“We know our discipline referral rate is down compared to last year, but we’re still working to get it lower,” she said.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.