As with all schools in Carbon School District, reading has been a big push for students at Sally Mauro Elementary, because literally all other subjects are affected by a students ability to read. The school’s staff and students have worked hard and are meeting their stated goals that were set last fall.
“Based on the data that we have gathered this year, I think our teachers are doing very well considering what we have faced,” said Principal Blake Allen. “The district's goal for reading by the end of May is that 52.4 percent of the students in grades one through five should be reading on grade level. As we speak, here in the third quarter we are at 45.6 percent, so that district goal is just around the corner for us. Actually I believe we will reach that goal and we will exceed it."
Allen said that that hard work that the teachers are doing is being supported so well by all the para professionals in the school, and that they have helped move that needle a long way.
And as always, math competency is a huge part of learning at the school as well.
“The goal this year is for the students to know their math facts for their grade level,” explained Allen. “We are working with attaining the goal of 80 percent of the students being proficient with those. Right now we are at 70 percent. Obviously that is really good too, and we should reach our goal by the end of school this year on those as well.”
There is no guessing in education anymore. Everything is data driven and Allen said that as the teachers see what students do on assessments they are adjusting their methods and intensity on teaching what they know students, particularly individuals students, need. The teachers gather their data and when they see a student struggling, they put them into various interventions, which is what the teachers concentrate on while the strong para professionals at the school work with the mid level and high performing students.
However, using data is one thing. But how, when using that data succeeds in growth in students is handled, is another.
“The thing is just reaching goals is not meaningful unless our staff celebrates with students about their achievements,” he said. “Students who reach and are on level get what we call ‘brag tags.” Those attach to a metal necklace we give them. They love that. But the kids need to see the teachers celebrate with them and that is why we hold the events we do with the students. It just takes everyone working together.”
He said that school is hard, in fact extremely difficult for a lot of students. But by having fun with success it can be much more palatable for many of them.
“School is going to stay hard,” he said. “It will never be easy. But if we can turn that difficulty around and make their success in facing those hard things fun, we, and they will be successful. But we always need to remember that learning is the number one priority.”
Activities this year have been subdued, but others have gone off well with a lot of work and dedication.
“The school had our science fair and the PTA did that,” said Allen. “We had a lot of students that participated in it. And we had many students from the younger grades participate as well, which is a bit unusual. The PTA was able to bring in judges and everyone did it in a socially distanced atmosphere. We were also able to let in all the students to see the projects in a safe way too by doing it a grade level at a time.”
The school has a system of competition based on houses that kids have been placed in and they compete for various kinds of rewards during the year. Winning is determined on behavior of those students as a group. Many times those rewards have to do with having fun with Allen and at a recent event the students in the house that won took a box of permanent markers and drew on an older Honda Civic that he owns. Allen said it was a lot of fun. Each month the winning house gets to do one of those unusual kinds of things.
The COVID situation has made school more difficult for many, and it has taken its toll. But Allen says the future, a time when no one needs to wear masks will come and that will make things much better.
“You know, I think everyone is so excited to move on from what has been going on this last year,” he stated. “Teachers just can’t wait to not have to wear masks and for students to not have to do it either. Everyone will be able to communicate better, but in fact probably the number one thing will be just seeing someone's face and seeing their emotions.”
But as with all things the crisis has also brought strength and experience that will never be forgotten.
“It’s been a great learning year for myself,” stated Allen. “I just can’t put it any other way. Some days are not so good, and some days you just absolutely love. And the days that you love make you sure you are in the right profession.”