Gatherings called “family camps” organized by the school, home visits from faculty members and additional training for teachers is the new norm at Amargosa Valley Elementary School.
Principal Robert Williams told the district’s Board of Trustees, the additional training for faculty members is designed to enhance their teaching abilities in the classroom.
The new training also serves to prepare the staff for what’s known as the national Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
Nevada has worked with the consortium, which according to the Department of Education, is a group of states developing the smarter balanced assessments to align with the common core state standards in English language arts and mathematics.
Nevada is one of 21 states who participate in the decision-making process that regulates the consortium.
Smarter Balanced sample items illustrate the complexity of English language arts, literacy and mathematics that students will encounter.
“School officials received training from the Department of Student Achievement at the administrative level and we have done that with the teachers here,” Williams said. “We combine that with training that we’re doing here at the school on writing focused lessons to create better structured lessons.”
Additionally, Williams said teachers are now working in groups to design a lesson plan that adds multiple activities on how to take the consortium’s tests.
Teachers are taught how to use the various tools that are available.
“For our kindergarten, first and second grades, they’re creating a lesson plan on how to take the Measures of Academic Progress testing because they won’t be taking the SBAC testing,” he said. “We’re hoping that it’s a good introduction and I know one of our classes in the middle school has already started it. At least when they sit down for the test, it won’t be something that they’ve never seen before in terms of format.”
Williams also spoke about the school’s new family camp and home visits, courtesy of school officials.
He noted that the programs are working.
“It’s paying dividends in terms of communication and building relationships with parents and getting them the information they need,” he said. “So far the counselor along with our site coordinator has done 30 home visits and we’re trying to do two for every family because we got a late start with coordination issues. Next year, we’ll do one visit for every family in the first semester and one in the second semester.”
Funded by grants, family camps occur each month during the school year.
Williams noted although attendance has been down, that program is also working well.
“Our January family camp focused on math and we had 24 families and 83 people attend, which was almost as much as we did at the first family camp last year,” he said “February family camp is on the 21 and usually they come with a potluck.”
Last month, the state identified 78 underperforming schools.
The six in Nye County are Amargosa Valley, Hafen, Floyd, Round Mountain along with Gabbs, and Pathways High School.