COMBS—Students and parents in the Perry County School District should expect some changes this year both in and out of the classroom as new standards for exit criteria for Kindergarten through eighth grades will be implemented beginning this week.
“The exit criteria was set up to establish the same expectations for any classroom in any grade across our district, no matter what school a child attends,” said Kristie Collett, the district’s college and career readiness director. “So, the Kindergarten teacher at East Perry has the same expectations for her students as the Kindergarten teacher does at Robinson or Chavies or Buckhorn.”
Collett emphasized that the purpose of the new criteria was not to keep more students from passing into the next grade level.
“It’s simply to send a better product, a more prepared student to the next grade level, and, in turn, by the time they get to high school, this is a student that is fully prepared to move on to a more rigorous curriculum,” she said.
The Herald reported in May that Collett had explained in a previous board meeting that the previous exit criteria were not standard or documented for the entire district; it really depended on the teachers’ grades for the children and the assessments the students could complete. These new exit criteria will focus more on ensuring students gain and master certain skills at specific times in their educational careers so they will be able to use those skills and add to them in grades to come.
“What we expect is that a student who is performing well in the classroom should also be performing well on assessments,” Collett said, speaking of the end of the year assessments students take, the scores of which, in previous years, had not been matching what each student’s grades were in the classroom.
Superintendent Jonathan Jett added that the new exit criteria did not come about because students were doing poorly.
“I wouldn’t say that we’ve seen many students that are [not learning the skills they need]. It’s not that we have seen an overwhelming number of students not prepared, but we want to make sure that everybody’s prepared.” he said.
Collett explained that the idea for a new, district-wide exit criteria came from discussions from teacher leadership teams.
“We had a teacher leader, Tony Melton, and mathematics teacher, who was vocal in saying by the time they get to me they need to have certain skills mastered. If they have not mastered those skills coming out of primary or coming out of intermediate, they’re behind, because then I have to back up and teach them these skills before I can move on,” she said.
For example, Collett said one instance of exit criteria would be multiplication tables.
“It’s a skill that we all know that we have to have,” she said. ” Now, we’re establishing that you’re going to introduce it in second grade, we want them to begin mastering it in third grade, and by the time that they come out of fourth grade they should have their multiplication tables mastered.”
Collett said this mastering of skills is critical because, in this instance, once the students move onto fifth grade content, multiplication tables are just like a tool in their tool belt that they will use to master other types of math, like fractions and algebra.
“We just established that to basically level the playing field for all of our schools and all of our students,” she said. “We want to be a top five district, and we’ll get there.”
Collett added that though this may sound intimidating to parents, teachers, and students, the point is to make sure the students learn the things they’re supposed to learn to be the best student they can be—no matter how many different approaches have to be used before the student comprehends the material.
“There’s many different ways to get from here to other locations in Hazard, you just have to figure out which one works best for that student,” she said.
Collett said with the new exit criteria, teachers will better be able to communicate to parents exactly where their child is in their educational process and where they may need to work to be, so that parents can then help their child at home.
“This will all be communicated to parents, each school will have an open house, parents are invited in and we’ll have a public forum here, where we will communicate this will be the exit criteria for your child,” she said.
Jett said the exit criteria is meant to put all students on a level playing field as they go through grade school, and can only better the district and, in turn, the community.
“We envision the district where it doesn’t matter where you go to school or who your teacher is, they’re going to have the resources and the ability to get every student in their class to the same level as every other teacher,” he said.
Amelia Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.