School board gets lesson about science and reading programs
Students in the Health Sciences and Technology Academy at Berkeley Springs High School opened the November 6 meeting of the Morgan County school board with a presentation about their quest to earn college scholarships.
Academy members Logan Lyda, Tiffany Didawick, Heather Baker, Jenna Hansroth, Mary-Margaret Chaffee and Dylan Beddow took turns explaining how the four-year program leads to a full scholarship to any West Virginia college for students that fulfill a list of requirements.
Along with maintaining a "B" average, students in the Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA) are also expected to exhibit good behavior in school.
During their four years, HSTA members are given a chance to attend free summer camps with hands-on science topics like crime-scene forensics. Throughout the school year, students meet monthly, perform community service and create experiments and presentations for statewide meetings of other HSTA students.
Advisor Susan McBee coordinates the scholarship program at Berkeley Springs High School. The aim of the club is to encourage students from rural communities to pursue careers in the sciences.
"Hands-on experiments give you an idea of what you'd want to be in the health and science fields," said ninth grader Mary-Margaret Chaffee.
Early reading help
Two school administrators also gave the first of three presentations to the school board about new teaching programs being used in the schools.
Assistant Superintendent Joan Willard and Special Education Director Linda Ward talked about the Response to Intervention strategy being used to help identify and assist students having trouble with reading skills in Kindergarten, first, second and third grade.
Ward said the strategy involves three levels, or tiers, of testing and extra help for struggling students as they learn reading skills like phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. The reading program strives to ensure all students can read by the end of the third grade.
Ward said another aim of the intervention strategy is to reduce the number of students tagged for special education services.
Targeted tests of early literacy skills can pinpoint problems so students can get just the help they need, said Willard.
"We can hone in on specific areas of difficulty," she said.
"In the past, we used the wait-to-fail method. This way, we're doing prevention. We're catching kids at an earlier age," Willard said.
Ward said struggling students get extra help from a variety of school staff and are monitored closely by teaching teams that track their progress toward full reading skills.
Widmyer Elementary has been using the reading intervention program for three years. It was one of a handful of West Virginia schools to pilot the program for the state Department of Education. The state pays for specialized training for local teachers working with young readers.