Better writing, good behavior and an evolving professional learning community have been the three focuses of Frontier Elementary School students and staff over the past year.
Building better writers:
Word choice, organization, voice, conventions, ideas, sentence fluency and presentation are the "Six Plus" traits to good writing.
When FES principal Gail Gorry looked at AIMS (Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards) test scores, she noted the 392 students were doing fine in math and reading, but their writing skills, even though improved over past years, needed a boost.
In fact, writing skill improvement has been a focus across the district.
"Even though Frontier is a performing plus-rated school, each student has created a portfolio of their writing," she said.
FES teachers form Professional Learning Community:
Through the PLC, teachers in each grade level meet to discuss what students know, what they need to know and strategies to meet students' varying needs for knowledge.
For instance, the first and second grade reading test scores indicated the need for several levels of smaller reading groups. Now, if a first-grader is reading at a higher level, he or she might go into the second grade class at reading time.
Teachers know if students have comprehended the three R's, in part by anecdotal records and their Accelerated Reader, Accelerated Math and ALS or A Plus Learning System computerized test scores.
Students at FES are behaving better:
Through grants from the Arizona Behavior Initiative (ABI) the three elementary schools -- Payson, Frontier and Julia Randall -- have aligned their behavior programs.
Infractions, such as squabbling in the halls or disrupting class by tossing pencils across the room, have the same consequences at each school.
Quarterly tracking of misbehavior helps teachers and staff pinpoint when and where students are not towing the line.
Student behavior at recess has seen the biggest improvement due to measures taken as a result of ABI data.
"There are five-minute intervals when classes go to the playground," Gorry said.
Because children are not always going together there is less pushing in the halls and not being safe, she said.
"We have less incidents on our playground during lunchtime," Gorry said.
Also, third- and fifth-graders go to morning recess together at one time, while second- and fourth-graders get to play at afternoon recess.
Children in each grade tend to play together more than they intermix.
"That gap makes it easier to supervise the playground," Gorry said.
When students do a good job they get a pat on the back from their fellows and the local Kiwanis club.
There are rewards for attendance, bringing up grades, Terrific Kid and the Wonderful Wolf awards, which are all about character.
The student council at FES runs the awards and flag ceremonies.
Band, strings, choir and general music round out the curriculum for kindergartners through fifth-grade students at FES.
The students' performances with their instruments are the highlight of the year at the annual holiday concert and the spring family picnic.