SAD 35 Reviews Proficiency Initiatives

By Mark Pechenik

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — A review of the district’s student proficiency goals and Marshwood High School’s quiz bowl preparations highlighted Wednesday’s SAD 35 board of directors meeting.

Heidi Early-Hersey, SAD 35′s director of learning, provided an overview of the district’s efforts to meet new state standards for public school students. The standards, which go into effect in 2021, call for students to demonstrate academic proficiency to qualify for a high school diploma.

Early-Hersey said proficiency learning in the district begins in primary grades. At Eliot Elementary School, teaching specialists provide one hour of reading and math intervention daily for students requiring further work in these areas. Teachers also benefit from coaching that keys them into a variety of instructional practices for working with these students.

A similar initiative is taking place at Central Elementary School in South Berwick where students benefit from extra help in reading and math. An after-school club further emphasizes mathematical concepts for students.

At Marshwood Great Works School in South Berwick, after-school help in math and literacy is boosting proficiency among students who are weak in these skills.

Anthony Bourbon, principal of Marshwood Middle School, explained how efforts are ongoing to strengthen student approaches to learning. “Our study skills program focuses on study skills, how to get organized, how to take notes and how to get information from notes,” he said.

Such individualized attention continues at the high school level, said Marshwood High Principal Paul Mehlhorn. For example, guided study halls allow math teachers to work with students needing instructional support. Meanwhile, peer tutoring has shown promising results as proficient students assist peers.

Mehlhorn indicated high school curricula are now further aligned with graduation requirements “to ensure all students have equal opportunities to meet all standards.”

Many principals are looking to establish summer academic enrichment programs to assure student proficiency beyond the academic year.

The board also learned of preparations for Maine Public Broadcasting’s Quiz Bowl competition. Marshwood High School last year won the quiz contest, which features student teams from 16 qualifying high schools testing their academic and trivia knowledge.

“We are hoping to repeat the same success that we had last year,” said David Lietz, faculty advisor for the Marshwood team of four students and two alternates.

The students engaged in several practice sessions in preparation for the first round of the quiz competition Dec. 2. “We wanted to familiarize ourselves with the format and broaden our trivia base,” said team member Will Hausmann.

There will be three more rounds, followed by a “head-to-head” round that will pit one student from each team against each other. A higher scoring final round will determine the winning team.

“The live experience is very different from what you see on TV,” said team member Jacob Tice, noting two to three hours of filming were required for a 25-minute contest broadcast.

“We are very proud of all of you,” Superintendent Mary C. Nash said. “You did a terrific job.”

Broadcast of the first round is Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. on Maine Public Television.

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