LEESVILLE, La. -- Vernon Parish School District believes that reading and math skills are critical for student development. These are two of their newest programs:
"Love of Reading" programs for kindergarten
Last year, Vernon Parish kindergarten classes implemented the American Reading Company (ARC) Core reading curriculum, as well as the Independent Reading Level Assessment. Kindergarten teachers received professional development and side-by-side coaching throughout the school year to ensure proper implementation. During the spring semester, they provided Professional Development (PD) for first grade teachers in order to better prepare them for implementation this fall. These programs will be implemented in first grade this fall and second grade next fall.
Carolyn Bosely, Curriculum Supervisor, said, "Our students love this curriculum! At the beginning of the last school year, 34% of kindergartners entered school on level in reading proficiency. At the end of the school year, 88% of our kindergarten students were reading proficiently. We are pleased with these results and look forward to their growth as they move through first grade."
Agile Mind program for 6 - 8 graders
Vernon Parish schools have recently decided to provide a Tier 1 curriculum for Algebra 1 entitled Agile Mind. Agile Mind is one of only two providers in the state of Louisiana to earn the Tier 1 ranking for middle school math instructional materials.
To support school districts with independent purchasing decisions regarding instructional materials, the Louisiana Department of Education conducts a thorough evaluation and review that assesses programs based on focus of standards, consistency across grades and topics, as well as rigor. The programs that exemplify quality and earn the highest scores on all indicators of superior quality are assigned Tier I.
Agile Mind was selected as the curriculum after much research and teacher input. It consists of two different versions: Regular Algebra 1 and Intensified Algebra 1. Intensified Algebra 1 is taught in a two-hour block. This enables struggling math students to learn Algebra 1 during the same school year time frame. Agile Mind has student workbooks, but is a web-based curriculum for teachers.
Dwain Ducote, Curriculum Supervisor, Vernon Parish School Board said, "We will continue professional development with the algebra teachers to develop their capacity to increase student achievement."
The program is for grades 6-8 and includes lessons that emphasize problem solving and critical thinking within real-world contexts, and features next-generation formative assessment items that personalize students' learning experiences. Throughout the program, students:
- Strengthen their understanding of key mathematical operations and use equivalent fractions as a basis for understanding ratios and proportional reasoning
- Begin formal work with expressions and equations as they use variables to represent relationships and solve problems
- Develop their understanding of variables from two perspectives - as placeholders for specific values and as sets of values represented in algebraic relationships
- Gain fluency with geometric concepts, such as area, surface area and volume
Students use interactive visualizations, graphing technologies, manipulatives, text, and other mathematical tools to develop conceptual understanding as they tackle and solve interesting problems. Daily opportunities for problem solving and practice build their skills and cement their learning.
Nearly 4 million students and 35,000 educators have used Agile Mind. The program was founded in 2002 in collaboration with educators.
In the spring of 2019, the beginning research at Vernon Parish schools was conducted on Tier I Math curriculum for Grades 6-8. The middle school math teachers met with vendors from three different Tier I math curriculum. The teachers were surveyed and they chose Agile Mind. In the month of June two days of professional development were held. The professional educator development occurs during the school year to increase teacher capacity. Administrators also receive professional development of this program.
Agile Mind uses their research on social and emotional learning and non-cognitive skills development to enable students who are significantly behind to master grade-level content while also addressing everyday challenges they may be experiencing.
Fort Polk Progress Chairman Michael Reese said, "These programs are just a couple of examples of the determination and accountability that Vernon Parish schools pursue as they continually strive to improve academia for each of their students."