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Two Eagle River School sees academic improvement

By Lailani Upham

Assistant Professor at the University of Montana Department of Educational Leadership, Courtney Stewart discusses how staff and faculty can tailor the curriculum to TERS student body needs. (Lailani Upham photo) Assistant Professor at the University of Montana Department of Educational Leadership, Courtney Stewart discusses how staff and faculty can tailor the curriculum to TERS student body needs. (Lailani Upham photo)

PABLO — A culturally responsive curriculum is raising test scores so far this school year at Two Eagle River School according to recent test results.

The implementation of the program falls under the U.S. Department of Education School Improvement Grant.

The curriculum is tailored to meet the needs of the TERS students by measuring academic progress with a focus of bench marking the student’s learning aptitude to reach their grade level and also to attain advanced levels, says Dr. Michael Bundy, TERS principal.

Much of the framework is to rebuild foundational skills students may have lost over the years in their grade levels in the core courses of English, math and reading, says Dr. Bundy.

The benchmark level is a student learning at their grade level.

Around 80 percent of the student population at TERS were in the “intensive” level for the core courses this fall but have jumped by Winter semester, according to test scores.

A chart created by Dr. Bundy to demonstrate how the framework of process that is used in TERS to reach the academic achievements in each student. (Lailani Upham photo) A chart created by Dr. Bundy to demonstrate how the framework of process that is used in TERS to reach the academic achievements in each student. (Lailani Upham photo)

“Intensive” is a student that is at more than one or two more grades behind. The next level up is “strategic” where a student is behind the national level and “proficient” is at grade level.

“We are trying to go back and fill in the holes. We don’t want them (students) to move on with holes,” Bundy stated.

TERS, being an alternative school that works with students individually to work at their level, is taking the teaching procedure to a deeper understanding of the each student by breaking it down further to fill in the gaps where a student has needs.

TERS teacher, Team Leader and Athletic Director Jami Hansen explains it’s like how the old Iowa tests were read where a school might look at a student’s academic level and what they do know and move on.

This particular culturally responsive program at TERS looks at what a student does not grasp and works at getting the necessary skills understood at the student’s level to move up to where they should be.

TERS uses the common core standards of the Northwest Evaluation Association.

NWEA uses a development set of assessments aligned to the Common Core, which are assessments that are aligned to the national common core standards for math, reading, and language usage.

A graph of math scores from the fall to the winter. Blue is the “advanced” level, green is the “proficient” level, or the level a student should be at according to grade, yellow is “strategic,” which means they are a year or two behind their grade level, and red is “intensive,” which means they are over two years behind grade level. (Lailani Upham photo) A graph of math scores from the fall to the winter. Blue is the “advanced” level, green is the “proficient” level, or the level a student should be at according to grade, yellow is “strategic,” which means they are a year or two behind their grade level, and red is “intensive,” which means they are over two years behind grade level. (Lailani Upham photo)

The common core standards aim at bringing consistency and accuracy to the content standards into a single, unified platform.

TERS has partnered with the University of Montana Educational Leadership Department as part of the culturally responsive curriculum training used in TERS to bring students up to grade level scores.

Staff and faculty received a 3-day training in the fall before the school year began to implement the teaching style and is now receiving the option to participate in a 10-week course on Fridays on “curriculum and assessment” to fit the TERS student needs.

The TERS leadership team - Lisa Koetter, Jami Hansen, Rodney Bird, Rebekah Dalbey, Allen Bone, Darlene Triplett, Montana Nevarez and Julie Wenz - meet four days a week before student’s arrive to discuss concerns of the students academic progress along with safety, attendance and more, says Dr. Bundy.

The culturally responsive curriculum was devised by Dr. Bundy years ago to be used in the Northern Cheyenne Tribal School while Bundy was serving as Superintendent.

Bundy says the teachers work with student’s actual academic level to identify what skill they need to move up. The process is developed to make sure all holes of lack of skill are filled and a student isn’t left behind in understanding so they can move forward.

The breakdown process eliminates the frustration and fear a student may have or had while in a public school that could have lasted for years, Bundy says.

Professor Stewart engages the discussion on a topic called “Turn and Talk” by asking questions on improving assessment practices for TERS. (Lailani Upham photo) Professor Stewart engages the discussion on a topic called “Turn and Talk” by asking questions on improving assessment practices for TERS. (Lailani Upham photo)

From Fall to Winter semester, math scores rose by 3 percent in the “intensive” level, 23 percent in the “strategic level, 20 percent in the “proficient” level, and 1 percent in the advanced level.

Test scores are expected to rise before the end of the school year, according to TERS officials.

“We have the highest growth rate of all B.I.A. schools,” stated Bundy.

The focus of the curriculum is to “review, reteach and rebuild” lost skills, explains Dr. Bundy.

Part of the rebuilding is to sit down with every student individually and help the student understand their own growth and reach their target goals, explains, Lisa Koetter, TERS Librarian, Network Coordinator and Leadership Team member.

The next MAP testing is scheduled in May.

“We are creating a new educational model and making sure each student is at their appropriate level in a classroom. We want to get as many kids as we can to graduate,” stated Dr. Bundy.

TERS staff, faculty and student’s are undeniably making educational strives to succeed.

Dr. Bundy says that when a student cannot reach his or her potential academically their opportunities are limited.

“We are all about opportunities (here at TERS),” Bundy added.

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