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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Corporation officials discuss class sizes, curriculum

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kathy Knust
Clay Community Schools is working hard to help students develop the skills they will need to further their education.

"Students in the Clay Community School Corporation are receiving an education that is current with the Indiana Department of Education course descriptions and state adoptions," Director of Curriculum and Grants Kathy Knust told The Brazil Times.

With class sizes growing, parents have raised concerns that students are not receiving the best possible education.

"We understand the concerns of parents and the large number of classes, especially for the younger students," Knust said. "But the administration and teachers are doing everything they can for the students."

Guidelines that are released by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) have been met in every classroom, Knust reaffirmed.

"All classroom instruction has been aligned with the Indiana Learning Standards," Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Kim Tucker told The Brazil Times. "Teachers have spent a great deal of time reviewing the curriculum framework and power standards, and 'unpacking' those specific indicators to determine what students 'should know and be able to do' at the conclusion of the course or grade level."

Both Knust and Tucker have explained the work that has gone into the meeting the levels set forth by the state.

"Clay Community Schools have gone to great lengths to operate on a data-driven basis." Tucker said. "Data from assessments such as ISTEP+, NWEA, and DIBELS, gives administrators, teachers, parents and students real time information to help modify classroom instruction to better meet the dynamic need of each child."

"We do not make instructional decisions on only certain areas," Knust stated. "We want parents to know that we look at all of the data and we work with all the teachers to make sure that all students meet the adequate standards set forth by the IDOE."

Knust produced a report showing students in kindergarten classes with more than 25 students were still meeting, if not doing better, than some students in classes with less than 25 students.

"We as an administration want everyone to realize that the needs of students are being met," Knust said. "Students are receiving an education based on the guideline of the IDOE and they are succeeding, even in larger classes."

"Teachers take advantage of on-going training in standards alignment, data dissemination, differentiated instruction and curriculum development to ensure that their classroom instructional technique is modeled on best practice research," Tucker said.

For older students the options in courses increase.

"For high school students in the county, a handbook is offered to explain the classes that are available," Knust said. "The students will list the classes that they would like to take, knowing the requirements for each diploma as well as the GPA that is needed, students and parents can make informed decisions based on the guidelines and requirements."

Certain classes are combined to see that all students receive their required credit for the diploma of their choice.

"There are some classes, such as language classes, and trades classes that have multiple levels in them," she added. "This is to provide the student, who can work independently from the classroom, to have the opportunity to talk to the teacher and ask questions."

Knust was also able to explain the cost benefits of combining classes.

"By combining certain classes, that still meet the requirements of the IDOE, the corporation is able to provide students with the necessary instruction to prepare them for post secondary education, and saving money by filling the classroom," Knust said. "Students are also given the opportunity in these classes to mentor other students."

She was adamant when talking about teachers and classroom sizes.

"We have never paid one teacher to teach just one student," Knust said. "Teachers are allowed to volunteer their time at their discretion."

Tucker went on to explain one of the goals of the corporation is to provide more dual credits with area universities.

"Giving students the opportunity to take classes now while in a smaller classroom setting with an average of 25-30 students, before they go to a possible university where a classroom can have anywhere from 20-100 students, will save them time and money, is huge," Tucker said. "This opportunity already exist, but we really want to expand on this and go further."

Tucker explained how officials are currently in the process of planning a summit.

"School leaders are in the process of planning the Clay Community High School Summit to bring together business and community members, post-secondary partners, teachers, parents and students," Tucker said.

"The purpose is to begin dialogue about school to work preparation in the two high schools and to gauge employer satisfaction with graduate academic and job skills," she said.

"The ultimate goal is to provide high school instructional leaders with information, resources and support from the business community to reframe and retool their instructional programs and practices and better prepare graduates for their post-secondary pursuits," she said.

Knust explained how the corporation students in the county compared to students in different corporations with the same socioeconomic levels as those in Clay County.

"The numbers show that students are still learning and they are showing the growth that is expected by the state for each age range," Knust said. "When compared to other schools of our socioeconomic area we are average, but we want to do better."

"The job of the Clay Community School Corporation is to provide a foundation for the future of the children and to help make them into well rounded characters for the future of our community," she said. "We believe that through the hard work and dedication of the staff and teachers we will accomplish these goals."

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This still doesn't explain why it was reported on the school corporation's website that over $20,000 was spent to earn 10 students 2 credits each last year or why we are teaching 2 students at Clay City High School Natural Resource Management at a cost of $6249 per student this year in teacher salary alone. The expenditures for ALL funds per student for the 06-07 school year was $8924. It will, no doubt, be higher this school year. The question remains; if we are expending so much money in teacher salary alone to teach these courses to so few students, which students are getting shorted?

-- Posted by FlyinLion on Wed, Sep 24, 2008, at 11:20 PM

She is a wonderful teacher!

-- Posted by ibclean76@yahoo.com on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 7:05 AM

I know my child has been shorted! I don't understand why Clay Community has such a horrible education system while our neighboring counties are thriving? No disrespect to anyone, but if your child does not attend Jackson Township, forget them getting a decent education. I have been observing this county since my kids started here. Money is ill managed, emphasis is not put where it needs to be, and rules are set for all but only observed by some. My child just finished with I-Step and I bet the score will be pretty low, but with them that's OK. It's not OK with me and I don't know who else I need to talk to to get them to realize there is a problem. I guess I will have to contact Indianapolis to get something accomplished. It's pretty bad when I have to beg the teachers to acknowledge there is a problem. Shouldn't they see it when they are in the classroom? If the child cannot add or subtract by the 3rd grade-no matter how hard I work at home with them-wouldn't that be a concern for you? The no child left behind bill I guess bypasses Clay Community!

-- Posted by smoke20fan on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 7:22 AM

Teachers are the last best example that we offer to our children. It is the responsibility of every teacher to help each student reach their maximum potential. Not every student is capable of the same level of achievement, and it is time for parents to accept this fact. If every entity that we dealt with was as good as the public school system, none of us would have much to complain about. I am not a teacher, but I appreciate them very much.

-- Posted by ucantbserious on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 9:09 AM

Before judging schools, teachers, and curriculum which of course do influence the degree of excellence, ask your school to poll their students:

1. What time do you usually go to sleep?

The average junior high student goes to sleep between 11:00 and 1:00. The average high school student goes to sleep between 12:00 and 3:00. Most students are sleep deprived, which of course affects the classroom in a number of ways, from incomplete assignments to missed information. All the curriculum and teacher training in the world can not make a difference when the student is not engaged.

2. How often do you have an essay test?

Most students are assessed with formats that only address recognition memory and not recall memory. In another words: regurgitation and not original thought. When students are trained to become teacher or system dependent and do not initiate or take responsibility for their own learning or productivity, they are left behind.

3. What was the last school grade/year in which you consistently read out loud to someone on a daily basis?

Most students stop reading out loud when they are given chapter book format, which is generally the 2nd grade level. That is when they begin a detrimental habit called skip reading. When they come to a word that they do not know, they simply skip over it. Skip reading is reinforced year after year so that by the time standardized testing comes into play, the test-taker is a strong skip-reader. The student misses crucial information that reflects a score that does not accurately show what has been taught.

4. Has your school ever trained you in memory enhancement-how to memorize-how to store and how to retrieve information quickly and accurately?

All learning is dependent on the sophistication of memory systems-yet students and teachers are rarely trained to modify their own systems-to become quicker thinkers.

5. Have you ever skipped over a standardized test question because of the way it looks: such as too much language or a requirement of too much energy?

The majority of students will skip over at least 1-2 questions while others skip over 3-5 simply on the basis of appearance, not concept.

Note: Standardized test designers have to design failure into a test. This can be manipulated easily with the length, confusion, and appearance of a question. Failure is then blamed on the lack of the instruction of a concept-which is not necessarily the case.

6. What value is there in getting an education?

Most students reflect either apathy or disinterest in our current educational process. Schools outside the United States reflect students with a hunger for learning. American students, sadly enough, reflect a desire to be entertained instead of a desire to make the most of an opportunity.

If we want schools to improve dramatically then we have to remove the shackles of yesteryear's antiquated approach. Because the average teacher has less than 10 net minutes per student per day to address feedback and verification, the student can not move forward with mastery. Students are holding onto as much false information as true.

Consider implementing a program called No Excuses; No Limitations. It allows for independent accelerated learning to run parallel with current programs. So anyone who respects the opportunity for mastery and more can succeed even if the system, teacher, or curriculum have weaknesses.

Example: An English Second Language Student from Guatemala with a learning disadvantage covered 5 and 1/2 years of math in 12 months. He, along with other students, completed standard math curriculum 4 years ahead of schedule. The program entitled- No Excuses; No Limitations allowed this student to finish all work through 6th grade by the end of his 2nd grade year placing him on a firm success-oriented tract in Math for the rest of his academic years.

This is a realistic possibility for any student because the human brain has tremendous potential.

It is only a matter of removing the shackles and the faultfinding while throwing open the doors to opportunity.

Thank you for all you do in educating our youth.

Ms. Mac

Jeanine McGregor

Educational Researcher, Consultant, Author, Parent

Research and contact information: www.fortword.com

-- Posted by Ms. Mac Educational Researcher on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 11:12 AM


Though I agree that our school has some shortfalls and has skewed priorities as far as spending on non academic programs, have you been to school board meetings to express your concerns? I don't think too often as many times it's just Leo or I who are only patrons unless you were in that passel of parents last month. Though in some areas, surrounding counties have surpassed ours, I would not say that they are thriving. Compared to some other countries our entire country is going down hill. You need to first go up chain of command. In mean time augment your child's studies with lessons at home. While I'm not a fan of homeschooling, I do recognize that the parent does have the ultimate responsibility to get the best education for their child. If the school isn't doing it [and school can't do it alone], it falls to the parent. Keeping hounding principal and other administration if it seems no one is listening but also make trips to the library, listen to books on tape in the car and play old fashioned sit around the table games like dominoes and uno. Make sure their diet is balanced with plenty of veggies and fruits, keep away from the pop, fries, and other fats and sugars and as Ms "Mac" says make sure they are getting enough sleep. Have sit down meals with no TV going so day's activities can be discussed. That will bring to surface what needs to be addressed as far as what studying needs to be done. Call the homework phone on daily basis if student isn't finishing homework and ask teacher what you can do to reinforce concepts at home. One of the "meanest" things we do to help our kids is not having satellite or cable TV. Lack of programming makes them go to a book when bored. Daily hounding is needed all through high school for some kids about doing their work first. The parent has to be the one hounding and giving appropriate consequences like limited TV and computer time, and yes, even an extra chore or two at times if they fail to get the message. Yes teachers have a lot of responsibility to teach effectively in the classroom and to attempt to teach at several levels. WE do have to keep them held accountable. Some are better at it than others, but if this isn't being done for your child, better to try another avenue and not only complain. I complain a lot as I think a good number of kids are still being left behind...not their peers in Clay county, but their peers in the state, country,and world; but until the corporation can do a better job of it [for whatever reason] I still have the ultimate responsibility to procure the best education I can for MY child. It all comes down to choices. I've not always made the right ones and am not always successful in achieving change, but I will not give up working from both angles. One to get what MY child personally needs, and two, to keep trying to improve education for all the children in this county. MS Mac also reminds me of the film _Stand and Deliver_. About a group of student who all thought were ignorant and would never amount to anything. Don't put your student down, but tell him that they CAN achieve but it's going to take an extreme amount of hard work. If you just complain, your child will hear that he is never going to get a decent education if TEACHER doesn't do something. Don't give the teachers that much credit. If he does have a bad teacher, tell him he can do it in SPITE of the teacher...then just don't forget to follow through with reporting teacher appropriately so they aren't working here without documentation/improvement forever as some have, for after your own child, others in the community are just as important and they may not have a parent who gives a flip. Have a good day.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 2:55 PM

Ms. Moore

I do all that. As for the school board meetings, I would like to attend but never know when they are until it is too late. I don't get the Brazil Times-I just get to read it online when I can. I have complained and complained about things to the principal. I really feel that she doesn't want to accept the fact that her school is one of the worst in the county. My child has an IEP, but I don't understand why things are not getting better. I ask everyday if help is given in the classroom when it is asked for, the answer I get back is "No, I was told that some else needed more help then me." How do you process that with a child who struggles with reading and Math? When you ask for them to be tested-OMG! I had to fight to get my oldest tested because I knew there was something wrong-don't let anyone tell you ADHD is not heriditary. My second is in worse shape than my first and when I asked for testing back in the 2nd grade I was told that they didn't see the need. I guess the constant failing on tests and not being able to read a sentence properly is not a need. I work with my children on a daily basis, if it wasn't that I have to work--they would be home schooled. If I could afford it, I have even considered moving them out of the county to a different school corporation with a better special ed district, more direct contact with someone who can help and are actually trained to teach someone with disabilities--and I am not speaking of the physical ones. I don't understand also with our school why social interaction with other kids in different grades are looked down upon. When you live in a rural area, school is one of their social settings where they learn their social skills. I have done so much fighting to get anything accomplished and you get to the point that you are tired of fighting a losing battle day in and day out. We do all we can at home to help with the problems, but when both parents work full time by the time we can get home we have a 2 hour span to help with homework and eat dinner, and then it is bedtime. And homework is the majority of this time. If school board meeting were sent home with the kids papers that would be a wonderful thing, I would then know when they are instead of after the fact when I read it in the paper. I have also seen the Yellow Signs around town on my way to work, does anyone know what that is about? And how do you get involved? Thanks.

-- Posted by smoke20fan on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 7:47 AM


USUALLY the school board meetings are the same night each month. Usually they are held at middle school except for two times a year when they are held in Clay City. You also have access to the school board via letter/handwritten or internet. Look at the school corporation web site and you will see the email address. You can also contact the Superintendent if the principal is not addressing your needs. I empathize with you having to work. Is there an older child who can help with tutoring of your child in math and reading? Can older sibling read to him while you are making dinner? Or maybe have him read aloud to you while you make dinner? Is there a grandparent, uncle or cousin who can step in and help either at home or at school? sounds like time is the issue here, not enough of it for your child's individual needs. Don't give up and keep looking for ways in which to increase his learning time each day both in school and out. The other issues of different age interaction I don't quite understand so please explain further. I don't think my kids ever had the problem of not socializing with kids in other grades during recess etc.

If all else fails, maybe one of the other schools would be better equipped to handle your child's issues. Moving your child may be the answer but that would be one of the choices that you have to make. I have many times thought that another school corporation would address my kids' needs better but with every choice there are multiple results both educational and economic. It just depends how much you are willing to trade away and how sure you are that it actually will meet your needs. Could be that your child might benefit from tutoring on the weekends when you have a little more time to help him or can get an older student to do so. I'm sure that the employees at one of the schools can recommend to you a student who may want to do this. In the mean time, ask for a conference between you, the teacher and the principal so all know that you still feel that your child needs more help and see what is possible. Good Luck

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Mon, Sep 29, 2008, at 11:43 AM

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