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  • Peg Keeler reading to a child

    "We have exceeded the goals that we set for our school in both math and reading," says Van Hise Elementary School Principal Peg Keeler.

  • Staff reviewing the School Improvement Plan

    Iin the 2015-16 school year, Van Hise saw the highest growth they’ve ever seen since the district starting using MAP as a metric for monitoring School Improvement Plan (SIP) goals. In large part Keeler credits the school’s strong instruction teams and grade-level teams.

  • Smiling teachers

    Sharel Nelson, the school’s Instructional Resource Teacher, says, “When we set our goals we ask ourselves, Did we set the bar too high? No – Set the bar high. We will meet it.”

  • Ms. Nelson helping a student

    Ms. Nelson eats lunch four days each week with individual students through the school's mentorship program.


Set the bar high

Van Hise Elementary School Principal Peg Keeler says there’s a “special sauce” to their students’ extraordinary growth. One ingredient? Setting the bar high.

Sharel Nelson, the school’s Instructional Resource Teacher, says, “When we set our goals we ask ourselves, Did we set the bar too high? No – Set the bar high. We will meet it.”

Everyone's on the upswing

“This is really exciting,” Principal Keeler says, looking at the spring MAP data. “Our proficiency has gone up in all groups,” including their two School Improvement Plan (SIP) focus groups. Seventy percent of the school’s African American third through fifth grade students are proficient or advanced, and half of third through fifth grade students receiving Special Education services are proficient. “Everyone’s on the upswing,” Keeler says.

Nelson stresses what an accomplishment this is, given that MAP adjusts to each student. In other words, “It’s adaptive, so it’s constantly changing with them and challenging them. To hit proficient and advanced is big.”

In the clip below, you can hear them discussing some of the data.

Exceeding growth goals

As for growth, in the 2015-16 school year, Van Hise saw the highest growth they’ve ever seen since the district starting using MAP as a metric for monitoring School Improvement Plan (SIP) goals.

"We have exceeded the goals that we set for our school in both math and reading" says Keeler. One particular celebration is how the students receiving Special Education grew in reading. The school set a goal for this focus group to reach 53% of students meeting their growth targets. When they got the data back, they were excited to see that 73% of the students receiving Special Education met their growth targets. At Van Hise more students are growing in their learning at accelerated rates and becoming proficient and advanced in reading and math over time.

In the clip below Keeler explains how they set, monitor and celebrate their SIP goals.

Another ingredient in the 'special sauce'

In large part Keeler credits the school’s strong instruction teams and grade-level teams. Hear her describe how these work in the audio clip below.

We believe in inclusive education

“The other thing I want to say that I feel undergirds everything we do here is that we believe in inclusive education.” In other words, we believe that all children and adults belong in a learning community that they should not have to leave to get services and supports that they need, from academic support to behavior supports. Listen below for more.




Engaging students through mentoring

Engaging students through mentoring

Another, perhaps less frequently acknowledged approaches that support student achievement as well is a mentorship program, headed up by first grade teacher Donna McGuire. She matches staff to children who are identified as needing a little boost in engagement and connection.

The staff eats lunch with the student once a week to build a friendship and get to know the student’s “deep culture and who they are,” says Keeler. “There’s something about a child knowing more than just the people within their classroom. We have expanded the number of adults the child knows.”

The program is continually growing, with some staff, like Keeler and Nelson, mentoring multiple students. “I’m having lunch four days a week with kids,” Nelson says.

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