Trustees Suggest Teaching Grammar, Eye Exams To Improve Graduation Rates, Test Scores
A couple of Natrona County School District trustees offered suggestions that might help the local schools improve graduation rates and test scores.
During their work session on Monday, trustees reviewed the quarterly report of the district's five-year strategic plan to about graduation rates, reading, school performance and overall operations of the district.
The conclusions so far are grim.
Graduation rates in the district's schools have lagged behind statewide district averages, according to the report.
And according to the ACT (American College Testing) tests, district high school students have performed significantly below the state’s percent proficient levels in math, reading and science in 2013-2014.
Two trustees offered suggestions for improvement.
Debbie McCullar, a career English teacher, said the formal teaching of grammar was gradually dropped with the district's implementation of the "schools of choice" program years ago.
The decline of teaching grammar wasn't intentional, but it had bad consequences especially for the ACT, she said.
"A great deal of it is based upon language," McCullar said. "And our kids have not gotten a concerted, from one grade to the next grade, alignment of grammar skills so that they are familiar enough to be able to attack words that they don't know in terms of vocabulary and that kind of stuff."
She referred to a group of foreign exchange students who on Monday told the trustees of their great relationships with their host families, and spoke with nearly flawless English.
"The structure of the sentences and the rest of it is not any different from English," McCullar said. "We've just quit teaching it in any kind of formal way."
Another trustee offered a different suggestion for improving student success.
Trustee and optometrist Clark Jensen says good eyesight is important to learning.
"There's probably 20 percent of our school population who has undiagnosed, untreated vision problems and certainly that has an impact on the performance of a child in school," Jensen said. "So if they're struggling from the get-go, vision-related learning problems are a real issue."
School nurses make a valiant attempt to try to screen for vision, and even a doctor without the right skill and technology will not be able to discern the problems, he said.
For example, children who are far-sighted can read the eye chart to the bottom line, Jensen said. However, they are the ones who are hyperactive, easily distracted, and the smart children who are under-performing.
"Mom and dad don't know, teacher doesn't know," he said. "But this kid is not a very good reader because he has a vision problem that hasn't been dealt with."