Payson Elementary Works To Meet Students' Needs

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"A good school's progress is not flashy. Schools announcing all these big things probably don't follow up," Roy Sandoval, principal of Payson Elementary School, said when asked to talk about his school's progress.

A lot of time and effort this past year at PES has been devoted to a detailed study to identify the needs of students in regard to taking the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test, he said.

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Bus drivers play a big part in the lives of many students in Payson schools. They're the first person from the school they see each day and the last one they see before their return home.

Intervention programs have been developed specifically for those students. Parents have been contacted for their participation. And an after-school program has been put together to address the students' needs.

"It's a huge undertaking. Some students may need special help in all three areas (math, reading and writing), others need help in just one area or two," Sandoval said.

He said the study identified "106 areas of need." He said that does not mean 106 of the school's 367 students need special help in the subjects covered by the AIMS test, it means among the 367 students, there are 106 areas of deficiency. This goes back to some needing help in all three areas, others needing it in two, some just needing help in one of the subject areas.

A challenge Sandoval and his staff are facing is lack of cooperation by some of the parents.

"We can go through all this work and the parents are not required to have their children take advantage of the help being offered. I can't make it required for them."

He said he sent two letters to the parents of the students needing help and followed those up with personal phone calls. The school had only a 78 percent response for participation in the special help offered, Sandoval said.

The school's staff and students have continued their work with the Accelerated Reading program; while the number of books and assessment tests have been expanded, the principal said.

He said the school also has implemented the Spalding Phonics Program, the most systematic program to teach phonics and reading. There were 14 staff members specially trained in the program last year.

Also new to the school:

  • An English language learner teacher for non-English speaking students; and
  • An academic liaison to work with the families of students in need of academic help, plus provide parents with skills to help the student and find resources.

Sandoval said the school is continuing its efforts to create an environmental study area. Recently several construction companies in Payson began building a ramada in the environmental study area to be used as an outdoor classroom, he said.

"We continue to be thankful. I have an outstanding staff, they're hard workers. And we have excellent community support," Sandoval said.

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