SALISBURY TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT
The Salisbury Township Curriculum and Technology committee meeting was held Oct. 28 where members heard a presentation by Director of Teaching and Learning Kelly Pauling, chair of the math department Angela Xander and Salisbury High School Assistant Principal Brian Muschlitz. The educators were there to present on the district’s underperformance by students in the Algebra/Geometry math series on the Keystone testing.
The presentation covered Salisbury’s historic struggle in the Algebra/Geometry area of the Keystone testing and the ways in which the faculty plans to combat these lower test scores.
The first implementation of coursework aimed to address this issue was started three years ago. They experimented by introducing a Keystone remediation course during Falcon period. Then, two years ago, more staff agreed to teach remediation courses during Falcon period and the second year showed more success.
Last year, the school district introduced Classroom Diagnostic Tools. These key factors looked at student performance to determine the students who need help the most. However, admistrators are still looking for higher achievement and that is why they went to Northwestern Lehigh School District to explore a new program that could be offered. Northwestern, has been overachieving in the math areas of the Keystone exams.
The new program will be a three-year program focusing on more targeted subjects, rather than teaching the current split class of Algebra/Geometry. The old sequence of classes, which included the dual course, will be replaced with Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Geometry. The new sequencing will provide a concentrated time to prepare for Keystones and remediation.
The educators provided a detailed rationale for the change. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommends high schools provide two to three years of mathematics in a common shared pathway that focus on essential concepts of numbers, algebra and functions, statistics and probability and geometry and measurement.
Last spring, the majority of Algebra/Geometry II students, who tested for the first time, performed at a basic or below basic level. From the Algebra/Geometry III students who retested for the second time, zero percent achieved proficiency.
Pauling, Xander and Muschlitz believe this new sequence of courses will allow students more fluidity between learning levels, which helps students transition to college prep course as they do better in the lower level courses. The presentation closed with thanks and approvals by the curriculum and technology committee. The new materials will, most likely, be approved in January 2020.
The meeting also included an almost decade recap of the Salisbury Township School District demographic breakdown. Superintendent Dr. Randy Ziegenfuss presented the statistics that have come to light during his time working for Salisbury.
From his handouts and presentation, the district has shifted 10 percent toward a higher Hispanic population. Ziegenfuss saw this as a marker of the district’s shifting diversity. He continued by mentioning a shift in economic diversity has presented itself as well.
The free and reduced lunch program has seen a rise of nearly 10 percent in the past eight years.
“In the past few years … there has been a large rise in numbers at the high school,” SHS Principal Heather Morningstar said.
The meeting then moved to a new early college program offered to Salisbury students in conjunction with Lehigh Carbon Community College. This new program offers certain students the ability to take enough courses, while fulfilling their high school graduation requirements, to earn an associate’s degree from Lehigh Carbon Community College. The program has been tested and the results have shown to be significant for students who see this as their early pathway to higher education. The program does come with its disadvantages.
It was mentioned how wonderful this would be for the higher achieving students. Though, Morningstar said students considered “gifted,” meaning evaluated as having a very high IQ, were mentioned as not ideal for this program. This is mainly because gifted students would be stripped of the full high school experience and, most, are enrolled in a bevy of extracurriculars.
Students in the early college program would, most likely, not be able to join other clubs, sports or other school events due to their heavy coursework, although Morningstar was excited to present a new possible opportunity for the students who wanted to only take a select few courses.
Morningstar then introduced the dual enrollment option. This would allow for students to take specialized classes to give them a leg up on their way to college. These courses were mentioned as being offered in-person or online, during or after school hours.
The program is limited to students in 10th grade and higher. Certain courses are specialized and need prior classes, so high school students will be restricted. The consensus from the board was this is another great solution to help the students advance at a faster pace for an ever-changing world.
The Teaching and Learning 2020 update covered specific activities and coursework at all levels of education.
The elementary update for Harry S Truman Elementary School and Western Salisbury Elementary School focused on the faculty’s implementation of integrated social and emotional learning within the language arts curriculum.
The school district’s new faculty software, FASTBridge, has a an assessment program attached to it, called SAEBERS. It can be utilized to collect student’s behavioral data. The elementary faculty is using the data to better monitor and track students’ behavior and abilities.
One example the data can track is questions per minute. As stated, this study focuses on how many questions are asked in the classroom. Studies show that more engagement and more questions in the classroom evoke a better learning environment.
Seven different strategies, or data points, are used and tracked to help formulate ways to help specific, individual students.
At Salisbury Middle School, Principal Ken Parliman discussed the signup numbers for the elective courses offered. This is a newer program, called, “Spring Intersessions.” There are 14 offerings, with the most popular, “Design a Mini-Golf Course.”
AEVIDUM is a new club at the high school highlighted by Morningstar. The goal of the club is to create a positive mental health environment where all students feel accepted, appreciated, acknowledged and cared for.
The club’s name is an imagined Latin word, with the false meaning, “I’ve got your back.” Club members aim to break stigmas surrounding mental illness and mental health treatments by promoting with public service announcements, messages of positivity, a Suicide Awareness Month and several volunteer programs for groups affected by mental health issues.
The meeting closed with commentary by board member George Gatanis. He talked about his trip to the Hershey Leadership Conference, which he attended with several others in the room. He talked about the various seminars he attended and shared his beliefs that Salisbury is overachieving and underachieving in certain areas. He thought Salisbury could improve, specifically, within their own marketing efforts to promote programs and the school district in general.