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CHS tutoring gets a boost

INDEPENDENCE — What do educators do when students don’t learn?

Central High alternative education teacher Niki Paul and principal Greg Mitchell stand in the new Panther Academic Center, located in the Central High School library. The center is available for students from first period through after school to get extra help with whatever subject matter they might need. Paul’s alternative education students also use the center.

Photo by Emily Mentzer

Central High alternative education teacher Niki Paul and principal Greg Mitchell stand in the new Panther Academic Center, located in the Central High School library. The center is available for students from first period through after school to get extra help with whatever subject matter they might need. Paul’s alternative education students also use the center.

February 18, 2014

INDEPENDENCE — What do educators do when students don’t learn?

That is the biggest question, and one that educators have the most control over, said Greg Mitchell, Central High School principal.

“We have to give them extra time, extra support,” he said. “I don’t want to take them out of class to do that. I don’t want to put them on a remedial track to do that. I want to keep them in their regular classes, but at the same time, provide them the acceleration support outside of that environment to move ahead.”

That is the concept behind the Panther Academic Center, the new tutoring center located in the CHS library.

The center is modeled after a similar one Mitchell helped spearhead at Hillsboro’s Glencoe High School, where he was vice principal of curriculum instruction and assessment.

He realized students who fell behind for some reason — whether it be sports injury, illness or they just weren’t grasping a concept — needed help during the class day.

“We had an after-school program, but it was attended by the same group of kids,” he said. “Kids had athletics, activities, jobs and other obligations outside the school day.”

Mitchell’s main obstacle in establishing the center was schedules. With seven periods, and students in class for each of them, there was no time in the school day to take advantage of extra help at the PAC.

“You could host a really nice party that no one’s coming to,” he said. But he realized freshmen could use the center during their freshmen seminar class, which is required for all freshmen the first term.

Student Brooke Hoffman regularly writes quotes she hopes may inspire her fellow students on the white boards at the Panther Academic Center, located in Central’s library.

Photo by Emily Mentzer

Student Brooke Hoffman regularly writes quotes she hopes may inspire her fellow students on the white boards at the Panther Academic Center, located in Central’s library.

“Freshmen are traditionally the most vulnerable group in high school,” Mitchell said. “You have to get the freshmen off to a strong start.”

Students from the teen parent program and the alternative education programs are now using the tutoring center as their classroom, rather than the building at 1601 Monmouth Ave. The staff and computers from that building also were moved into the tutoring center.

Niki Paul, alternative education teacher, said she is enjoying working with a lot more students.

Having the teachers and students from those programs on the high school campus also freed up the alternative education building to explore establishing a school-based health center, which administrators hope to open next fall.

The tutoring center just opened after winter break, and hadn’t seen much use until grades were released — or rather, no grades. Under the new proficiency grading system, if a student does not show mastery of all the standards in a subject, they get no grade, kind of like an incomplete, Mitchell explained.

“Teachers started with the no-grade process,” Mitchell said. “So they’re saying, OK, your grade’s on hold. You need to do this unit or this assignment, and then we’ll get you that grade. It’s motivated kids to utilize (the tutoring center).”

The center is open from first period through after school.

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