NEW VIENNA — Currently all East Clinton students through fifth grade have the same teacher for all subjects, but that soon could change.
The question whether to have fourth- and fifth-grade students rotate among different teachers was discussed at length this week at the East Clinton school board meeting. By the end of the dialogue, the superintendent said he will get with the principals of Sabina and New Vienna elementaries about the board’s input, and tell them either both buildings do it or neither does.
The original proposal was to have a pilot program next academic year among fifth-grade students at Sabina Elementary School, and then evaluate how it went and make a decision on how to proceed. But at least two board members did not like having one school and one community try it while the other elementary and other community did not.
Board member Greg Bronner said during the past three years the district has worked hard to unify the two elementaries so that they are doing the same thing. He said it would be “like dividing ourselves again. To me, if we’re going to do a pilot, let’s be consistent and evaluate after a year.”
Board member Shane Walterhouse said he agreed.
East Clinton Superintendent Eric Magee said there are pros and cons with both approaches, and research has not demonstrated definitively which way is better.
The We Are Teachers website reported last summer the rotating format is a growing trend in elementary schools. The website also stated, “Research does not necessarily back up the effectiveness of departmentalizing [students having more than one teacher] at the elementary level. More research needs to be done about the overall effectiveness of the practice, not just the effect on test scores.”
Perhaps the foremost reason in favor of the practice is to have teachers focus on one or two subjects to give them a greater level of content expertise. That greater understanding is also expected to provide the teachers with more ability to differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of all learners.
Perhaps the main reason against the practice is the belief that young children need a stable learning environment, with the opportunity to develop a close personal relationship with one all-day teacher.
Magee at one point said he believes “relationships are key in everything we do, including educating our students.”
He said the three other school districts in Clinton County are departmentalized from at least the fourth grade and up.
East Clinton Board of Education President Linda Compton — a former elementary principal and teacher — said a lot of districts are not doing well in reaching and being successful with students with disabilities.
She said students with disabilities and ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and autism would struggle with moving around instead of staying with the same teacher they’ve established a relationship with.
“If we do go that direction, show me that you have a plan to support those students [with disabilities] in a very real way that will help them. Don’t just throw them in that situation,” said Compton.
Later, East Clinton High School Principal Kerri Matheny said when teachers are really specialized in a subject, they are better able to see where children are having problems in that subject area, and moreover the more specialized teacher can do different things with different student groups based on what might work for them.
In other district news, Matheny said there are seven seniors she’s very concerned about regarding their graduation prospects. She doesn’t think the students will complete the amount of work they need to complete by May in order to graduate this spring. There are 94 students in the East Clinton High School senior class.
Next month, the school board will decide whether to add bowling and swimming as school sports. Both athletic activities rank “pretty high” in interest on student surveys, said Magee.
East Clinton is moving next school year to the Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference (SBAAC), and that organization recently voted to add bowling as a league sport. Presently, swimming is not an SBAAC league sport.
New Vienna Elementary fifth-grade students Anna Lopez, Grant Williams and Kaylyn Deaton read essays they wrote in connection with the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.
New Vienna Elementary School Principal Jason Jones said the three students “embody our DARE program.” The DARE graduation at the school is coming up Friday afternoon, March 24.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.