Boyle BOE approves seal of bi-literacy for diploma; Junction City Elementary students share school goals

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, October 25, 2023

By Fiona Morgan

The Boyle County Board of Education approved a Seal of Bi-Literacy for the high school diploma at their meeting on Oct. 12.

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Spanish Teacher Heather Wheeler presented information about the seal. She said in 2015, the state came out with guidelines for a seal of bi-literacy, which is an award given by a school district or state in recognition of students who have obtained language proficiency in English and one or more other world languages by high school graduation. Wheeler said this can include sign language.

Students must meet English proficiency requirements, and world language proficiency requirements in a few different ways, including taking AP tests. Wheeler said the seal does not require students to take certain classes, rather it’s proficiency-based.

“It recognizes language proficiency learned at home, which helps affirm the culture and the language of our students whose home language is not English,” Wheeler said. “Being bilingual is a great skill … this is something they can put on their college applications and their resumes.”

Superintendent Mark Wade said the district already has a work ethic seal and an arts seal. He said this would be a great opportunity to recognize students.

Wheeler said only 11 districts in the state offer this seal. She said they can put something on the school’s website about the seal. The seal will begin for this 2023 – 24 school year.

Wheeler also presented strengths of the Spanish Department and how they’ve improved teaching in recent years. She said one strength is that six or seven people from the different schools work together to keep each other informed.

Each teacher at the elementary schools knows what the middle and high schools teach, and vice versa, in order to know what students have learned before and what they’ll be learning next. Every year those teachers come together and go over what’s going well and what they need to work on or change.

They also focus on incorporating other standards while teaching the language, like social studies standards, math and science. Wheeler said their strengths are in the people they employ, but also what they do.

One initiative is that they’re increasing access to Spanish credit at the middle school. About 42% of freshman Spanish students came in with a Spanish 1 credit this year, and Wheeler said that number is on track to grow.

Gifted and talented Spanish students are given special opportunities outside the classroom to learn more about Spanish culture and language. They’ve also increased student engagement and ownership through Kagan structures, helping speaking, thinking and social skills.

Junction City Elementary goals

Junction City Elementary School Principal Pam Shunk shared the school’s “Big 5” priorities for this school year. She made the presentation with help from five JCES students – Jackson, Reagan, Noah, Kinley and Samantha.

Shunk said those students are five communication leaders at the school and are involved with Leader in Me. She said they worked together on the scripts the students presented, but most of it was the student’s own words.

1. Engagement

JCES student Jackson presented ways the school is increasing engagement. He said teachers use Kagan structures for students to be more involved, and they do hands-on activities like games.

In many classes, teachers teach in small groups which helps students learn at their own level.

“What keeps me interested in class the most is the fun educational games the teachers allow us to play for the sake of fun and learning,” Jackson said.

2. Intervention

Shunk said in terms of intervention, they use I-Ready and different assessments for students to determine where they are in reading and math. They have an ESS teacher who works with the bottom 25% to provide additional reading and math instruction.

At first and second grade, they flexibly group students, and groups can change throughout the year depending on how kids are performing.

They have a low group that’s taught by a special education teacher and a regular education teacher. It’s kept at 16 students or less for them to get more intensive instruction. The middle group is taught by a regular teacher and an instructional assistant. They also have an interventionist this year.

“Based on data, we have put [the interventionist] in the middle group with the grade levels, reading or math, that have demonstrated that they need more support,” Shunk said.

After regular weekly lessons, teachers use Fridays to either reteach, provide extra practice, or provide enrichment opportunities.

3. Enrichment

JCES student Reagan presented ways that teachers enrich learning. She said in some classes, students do pretests that allow teachers to find out what students already know and what they don’t.

Gifted and talented teachers come to the school to work with students, and work with teachers to help them plan activities that will challenge their students.

Teachers have put together small groups of students for things like literature circles, technology projects, and Battle of the Books.

4. Data Tracking

JCES student Noah said he enjoys tracking his test scores. After taking I-Ready at the beginning of the year, teachers help students set goals for reading and math. Students come up with specific things to track to make progress toward their goals.

They track quiz scores each week, and teachers track how well they do each day on their exit slips. If students don’t do well during the week, teachers reteach on Fridays. If they don’t need extra help, students can do activities or have free time.

“I like keeping track of my data because I like seeing my progress,” Noah said.

5. Leader in Me

Student Kinley said that Leader in Me is a program that creates trust and engagement, providing students better ways to advance their goals.

Through the program they can make mission statements. The school’s mission statement is “At Junction City Elementary, we do our best, be our best, leading the way at JCES.”

Each class has a mission statement, and each teacher has one too. Kinley’s class’ statement is “We are a class family, friends, we are leaders, we are helpers, we are us.”

Student Samantha said the program teaches about leadership roles and leadership builders.

Students take turns doing morning announcements, and speak at special events. Samantha said being able to speak in front of people helps improve leadership skills.

In other business, the BOE approved the district calendar committee and the district planning committee.