The following article, written by Ruth Campbell, was published by Odessa American on Thursday, March 9, 2017.
Noel Elementary School fifth-grade math teacher Daniel Corral sits with Rosa and Daniel Montez as they go over his grades. Students now lead parent-teacher meetings at Noel as part of its campus turnaround plan.
Noel Elementary School has three ways of communicating with parents, the latest is a red folder that has all a students’ information in one place and the student gives the rundown at the twice-yearly parent-teacher meetings.
Daniel Montez, a 10-year-old fifth-grade student, recently went through all of his data with his mother, Rosa Montez with fifth-grade science teacher John Corral on hand. This is the first year the school has set up the meetings this way and it is part of the campus’ turnaround plan.
“We want the kids to explain to the parents what their success is and what they’re struggles are, how we’re getting along and how we’re progressing so it’s the child doing the presentation to the parent and I’m just kind of the facilitator just guide them and see how they’re doing,” Corral said.
“Ms. (Stacy) Johnson (the principal) incorporated the red folder because sometimes parents say, ‘I don’t know what their grades are.’ This way, it’s all incorporated into one red folder - all the information and they can have that ah-ha moment when we have a parent conference,” Corral added.
Daniel’s mother, Rosa Montez, said the child-led parent-teacher meetings are more informative for the parent.
“I think what’s exciting for him (is) seeing his progress,” Rosa Montez said. “… Once he started explaining to me, I was like, ‘Oh my God you’re reading at a sixth grade level? You’re learning something.’ I know that excitement for him was to see it on the folder itself, that he’s making progress. When he went down he was a little disappointed. …”
But she told Daniel it was OK, because he was still good.
“It’s OK to struggle because when you struggle, you learn; you bounce back up again so struggling is OK,” Corral said.
Corral said Istation software is used monthly for reading and math support. “We go to the computer lab work on math and reading items. It’s a mini lesson and a game. That way, they can get that mini lesson in get some comprehension, or get something accomplished. Then it breaks the monotony with a little game,” he said.
“To them, they’re playing,” Corral said. “… They’re having fun, but they happen to be learning as a consequence. I’ve seen more buy-in from the kids. We have different tiers - Tier 3, Tier 2 and Tier 1. They’ve jumped from tier to tier. It’s exciting. They put their name on the fifth-grade wall if they jump from one tier to another tier. We had a lot in our class this February jump to Tier 1. It’s exciting. They love that. They love seeing growth.”
Rosa Montez said Daniel’s goal has been to stay in Tier 1 since the beginning of the year “and so far he has stayed there.”
At the beginning of the year, Corral said Daniel was reading at the mid-fourth-grade level. He went up the next month to fifth grade and was at the upper sixth-grade level in February.
“This is because he’s practicing at home and he does what mom tells him to do,” Corral said. “He takes the Istation program seriously because it really monitors what he’s really doing. It does vocabulary; it does comprehension. This really gauges a true assessment of where he’s at academically as far as his reading level. He’s a fifth grader, but he’s at sixth grade so he’ll be successful come STAAR time.”
STAAR stands for State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test.
Daniel’s favorite subject is science and his second favorite is math.
“It’s really fun because we get to do experiments in the science lab and we actually once dissected an owl pellet,” Daniel said.
He likes math because it teaches him what measurements like gallons are and how much you need to pour to make one and about money.
Corral said the other forms of parent communication are the Longhorn Log and the student planner.
Highlighted in yellow are the assignments for the day. “What I do as a teacher is they fill out their planner. I fill out on top that I’ve seen their planner. Then it gets home and mom initials or signs the bottom that she saw his planner and he’s good to go. Homework is done, assignments are turned in he can go outside and play now,” Corral said.
If a parent wants to tell Corral something, she can write a note in the planner.
Daniel said presenting his information to his parents is fun and Rosa Montez said it makes her feel better about what’s going on at school.
“I find it very positive, her seeing the information for her son,” Corral said. “It lets them see where they stand. The numbers don’t lie, so they can have that reassurance. We’re all hopeful to see growth. That’s the whole reason we’re here - to see growth. Having it put into one folder, it’s easy just to grab and show.”
Ruth Campbell covers education for the Odessa American. Reach her at 432-333-7765 or 432-333-7765 or [email protected]