“What’s the plan in the meantime?”

Lee School District looks to ‘summer school’

Published in the Cape Coral Daily Breeze Jan. 22, 2015 issue

The School District of Lee County has eliminated private tutoring after they opted not to renew a yearly contract. A fifth quarter option of additional instruction will be implemented this summer.

The concept of the extended learning proposal, the fifth quarter, was brought forth to the school board at the beginning of December during a briefing meeting.

The fifth quarter will be held for 25 days with 75 hours of instruction, which breaks down to four hours a day with two hours of reading instruction and an hour of math. It will also include breakfast and lunch.

According to information presented at the meeting, the students eligible for fifth quarter are those who score below proficiency at a level one or level two, based on mid-year STAR and Early STAR assessments. Students who score at a borderline three level may have the opportunity to participate in the fifth quarter through a recommendation by a teacher or administrator.

The program will be located at the nine lowest 300 list in Title I schools, which includes Bonita Springs Elementary, Colonial Elementary, Edgewood Elementary, Franklin Park Elementary, James Stephens, Lehigh Elementary, Manatee Elementary, Orange River Elementary, Ray V. Pottorf Elementary, Tortuga Preserve Elementary and West Zone 3rd Grade Reading Camp site at Patriot Elementary.

Board Member Cathleen Morgan said she has seen the numbers that the district put together about the after school tutoring. She said the fact that student gains did not meet expectations; she believes the fifth semester is the right decision because the district should get better gains with that tactic.

“The numbers didn’t show we were getting the bang for the buck,” Board Member Steve Teuber said about the learning gains.

He said the tutoring did not get discontinued; it just went from external to internal.

“We have to do what is best for our students and our taxpayers,” Teuber said.

Board Member Mary Fischer said she thinks the fifth quarter is a good idea.

“According to information we have from research and past practice, we know that when kids have support over the summer it helps them to maintain and continue their gain,” she said.

In addition, fifth quarter is really good for a lot of parents because the kids might otherwise be on their own during the day over the summer. With daily reinforcement and support, Fischer said it will allow the students to continue to progress.

“Our goal is to get the kids up to where they need to be,” she said. “These are the kids that really need the additional academic support.”

That additional support, Fischer said provides more success in that type of environment that improves their motivation and confidence level.

There is one concern however with the fifth quarter.

Fischer said her concern is for the children that are in the private tutoring program and are making progress.

“What’s the plan in the meantime between January and the beginning of June,” she asked. “What happens to those kids that are making progress and getting support?”

Many of the students received support after school, in their own environment and on the weekends, Fischer said, during their private tutoring. She said the students developed relationships with their tutors during that time.

“My concern is we must have some kind of plan for those children to maintain their progress between now and June. I would like to see us continue that tutoring until the end of the school year, so we don’t interrupt that positive progress,” Fischer said.

Board Member Pamela LaRiviere said she was torn with all kinds of feelings on the tutoring issue.

“I understand the power behind the fifth quarter as well,” she said during the meeting. “Maybe there will be something we can come up with in the meantime. I don’t know what that will be and how that will come. Maybe we can create something and think outside of the box and maybe someone will donate some money that will help pay for that.”

Superintendent Nancy Graham told the board members during the Jan. 13 meeting that the only reasoning for the timing of the cancelation of private tutoring is because of the January-to- January contract.

“We weren’t able to extend for another six months without going into another year,” she said. “We continue to have extensive instruction during the day. Superstars, which is a program we do, is still in place. The children that were using outside matters are able to get into that program without any issues.”

‘A lesson well-learned’

I enjoyed talking with Bill, an artist and art teacher at Providence Academy. It was great hearing his enthusiasm about how well his eighth grade students did on a college level test.

A lesson well-learned on the beauty of art: Class strikes all “A’s” in college-level test at Providence

Published in Herald & Tribune June 17, 2014 issue

Eight students at Providence Academy have gotten the art history bug — and they’ve got the scores to prove it.

“I am real proud of the whole class,” said Bill Bledsoe, a Jonesborough artist who also teaches at Providence and was responsible for administering the Art History Competition test, a college level test given to eighth grade students.

One of his students, Parker Barnes, even scored a perfect score.

“I felt good about it, but I wasn’t sure,” said Barnes, 14, of earning the only 100 percent. “I’m really blessed that I had the chance to take the test.”

The other students who participated and scored in the high 90s — ranging from 96 and 98 to five 99s — were Abbi Stuart, Isabel Dillon, Caroline Koscak, Jordan Spano, Trinity Owens, Hope Olds and Clara Reynolds.

Bledsoe said he began giving the Art History Competition test to eighth grade students four years ago at Providence Academy because he feels art history is such an important part of studio art. Bledsoe teaches both subjects at the academy.

Out of approximately 40 students who enroll in his art history class, three quarters of them earn an A, he said.

“It was an option to take the competition test,” Barnes said. “I kind of thought I would give it a shot. Why not?”

The first year the test was given, five eighth-grade students participated, all earning A’s. Bledsoe said the highest test score the first year was a 97, which was followed by a 98 the following year. The next year two students received a 99.5 percent.

The Art History Competition includes a cumulative test that covers major artists from the Renaissance to Early Modernism period.

Each student is tested on his or her ability to list more than 80 artists, their nationalities, trademarks and major works of art. The students are also required to answer more than 30 discussion questions related to the artists, artwork and period of art, as well as identifying slides of paintings or details of that painting.

“This competition test. They have to answer twice as many questions as a regular student has to answer on a regular test,” Bledsoe said. “What is unique about that is these tests are college level. The only difference between my test and the college level is I have discussion questions instead of essay questions.”

Bledsoe said the discussion questions are more difficult to answer than essay questions because his students have to be concise while still providing all major points in a paragraph.

“They have to answer it as if I knew nothing about it and they have to give me examples,” he said.

In order for students to earn a 100 on the test, they have to be able to identify every single artist in chronological order and spell everything correctly.

“If they misspell the name of the artist, the whole thing is wrong,” Bledsoe said.

Barnes said the test was pretty hard.

In preparation for the test, she said, “I made index cards for each artist and went over them for two and a half hours. Then I had to look up the slides that he showed us and studied that for an hour.”

Parker said the test taught her how each movement came along and how the movements differed. Her favorite period is impressionism with artist Georges Seurat because, she said, when stepping back from the painting she can see one big picture.

“When you step back it looks clear,” Parker said.

Bledsoe has his art history students two days a week one semester and three days a week the second semester. He said he teaches his class in a lecture fashion, where the students take notes from slides and what he shares, due to the class not having a textbook.

“It is really more about the kids and their willingness to sink their teeth into it and get excited about it to do a test at that level,” Bledsoe said.

He said the students have developed an appreciation of art from a historical point of view.

“If you are going to do artwork, you need to be excited about art history,” Bledsoe said.

Although Parker is thinking about becoming a pediatrician after graduating from high school, she will continue to pursue art the next four years at Providence Academy.

“The thing I enjoy the most about art is you can express yourself through it,” she said.

To view pictures of the students, visit: http://heraldandtribune.com/Detail.php?Cat=LIFESTYLES&ID=61561