By Ashley Bouwense
The Mt. Olive School District focused on introducing programs geared to get students thinking, and these learning initiatives proved to be successful throughout the district this year.
The 2015-2016 school year was all about Visible Learning, a term the district used from a study conducted by Professor John Hattie, researcher in education. According to visible-learing.org, Visible Learning occurs when teachers see learning through the eyes of students and help them become their own teachers.
One example of how Mt. Olive practiced this method was in introducing three grading periods in the elementary schools as opposed to the customary four. The one less grading period lent time for an additional parent-teacher conference and, this year, the schools decided to have their students present what they learned to their parents in the meetings.
“It’s a really great program for students,” Superintendent Larry Reynolds said. “The students talked about what they learned, how they learned what they did and where they need to work harder. Parents said that they never heard their kids talk that much before.”
Technology grew tremendously this year. The district implemented 1,000 computers and, with the computers, the schools instituted Google Classroom and other new software systems. With Google Classroom, teachers are able to see their students’ work immediately, and they can ask respond and ask questions to the children as they work. The district enhanced internet connectivity by 15 megabits—more than 50 percent of its usual connectivity—and the number of hours that students worked online rose dramatically.
The high school’s robotic teams made history at the Grand National Robotics Championship in St. Louis. Both the varsity and junior varsity teams won awards at the competition, and the junior varsity Beta Team placed at Nationals.
Mt. Olive did not simply use robots to compete; the district used them for in-school community purposes, too. Homebound students attended school virtually this year after the district procured five VGo Robots. The students drove the four-foot-tall robot remotely from their laptops; through the robots mobility, the children went to classes, raised their hands and participated in class discussion. The user saw everything the robot was exposed to on his or her laptop and the robot displayed the user’s face on its screen.
The district reduced the number of standardized assessments from kindergarten through eighth grade through the STAR 360 program by Renaissance Learning. In this initiative, the schools combined all of their standardized tests into one, comprehensive assessment that allowed educators to screen and group students for targeted instruction, measure student growth, predict performance on PARCC exams and monitor achievement on Common Core State Standards. The 36-question test uses an algorithm to measure what questions each student should receive based on the answers they give. If a student answers a question correctly, he or she will be given a more advanced question next; however, if they answer incorrectly, the student will answer on the same level at which he or she answered originally. Simply by instituting this form of individualized testing, Mt. Olive has seen student gain rates raise from seven percent to 15 percent.
Mountain View School gained national recognition after 500 elementary students rated fifth-best performance in the First in Math program in all U.S. schools. The First in Math website explains, “First In Math modules reinforce mastery of basic facts, decimals, fractions, integers, exponents, variables and order of operations. Many of the games introduce principles of algebra as early as kindergarten, first and second grade.”
Students have collectively answered more than six million math questions; this is the third year Mountain View participated in the program.
Out of all the impressive feats the district accomplished this year, the most popular hit of the spring season was MOHS’s lip dub. The nine-and-a-half-minute video features every student in the high school singing along to popular songs as it showcases the school’s many programs and students’ great enthusiasm. This video—created by the students—is a testament to the high school’s passionate academic community. Mt. Olive High School Lip Dub 2016 can be viewed on the high school’s website.
“What makes me proud is to see the kids in action,” said Reynolds.
He continued, “There are so many things that make our district great. Our board of education is unlike any other I’ve worked with; they put their money where their mouth is. They invest in our schools and make things really happen.”
The Mt. Olive School District accomplished so much in the sciences, mathematics and arts this year, and it looks forward to seeing its talented students inspire humanity again this fall.