Buckingham County middle, primary schools receive evaluations

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, February 22, 2023

DILLWYN – Where are Buckingham County schools struggling? What’s the best way to address those problems? During their February meeting, the Buckingham County School Board received an update on performance evaluations at the middle and primary schools.

The Office of School Quality reported back on the areas the schools were doing well and where they needed improvement. Both principals reported on what initiatives are planned and what’s already in place to bring their schools to where they need to be.

The schools were judged on their instructional leadership, classroom lesson evaluation, resource management and social and emotional support.

Buckingham County Middle School

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Zane Harshman, principal of Buckingham County Middle School, went over the three essential actions that the Office of School Quality had sent back after the review. These actions focused on the administration create clear expectations for teachers as they are creating their lesson plans and continue to provide professional development for all teachers no matter what they teach to make sure everyone is getting the support they need.

Along with the professional development meetings, the Office of School Quality encourages the administration to also make sure the topics talked about translate to the classroom.

“Not all professional developments, I think, have all the factors that we need sometimes,” Harshman said. “So we just want to make sure we evaluate what’s working and tweak what might need improvements in professional developments.”

There is also a focus on analyzing the assessments teachers are using that match up with the objectives and required standards of learning and all the pieces connect together that are required. This will be for all subjects with a special focus on reading where additional support is needed.

With all this in mind, the school has already implemented solutions to help the middle school reach these essential actions. A checklist was created to ensure the intended learning outcomes are being met and are aligned with the state standards. The lesson plan meetings have been revamped and are focusing on the four main topics content, product, process and assessments. Administration is also reviewing all assignments and assessments before they are administered to make sure the questions involved are meeting all the standards. There is also a template for lesson plans for math and English to go over standards, objectives, assessments and other work to make sure it all aligns.

Buckingham County Primary School

Helen Montgomery, principal of the Buckingham County Primary School reported on what the school excelled and struggled with during its evaluation.

The primary school also has things implemented and changed to help the students get to where they need to be and address the issues previously stated.

To address the instructional leadership issues, the school has already implemented lesson plan submission forms and observation records. They have also revised their content-specific walkthrough forms, which started last year, by adding a section about incorporating strategies teachers are using and learning from their professional development sessions. The school also changed peer observations from only new teachers to all teachers. They also plan to implement videos to help teachers as a self-reflection tool on how they taught.

Next, Montgomery spoke on what they are implementing for the classroom evaluations. To address misconceptions, they are monitoring the taught curriculum with weekly pre-planning to unpack standards and look at data. With the focus on science, they plan to have increased walk-throughs and focus to make sure the students understand specific vocabulary words and increase hands-on activities with extra funds set aside to help teachers fund those.

To align with hands-on learning for science, they plan to do cross-curricular learning. This will mean that they will read about what they are learning in science in the English class and to help as they are learning about the same things across the board at the same time. They will also have interactive note-taking as vocabulary is where the misconceptions seem to come from. They will draw pictures with the words to help create visuals for learning.

“Of course, since we are primary we will use music and movement in our lessons so that our kids can understand difficult concepts and be able to comprehend those,” said Montgomery.

An overall breakdown

According to Travis Ridley, assistant superintendent of instruction, the schools are doing well but there are things that need addressing as mentioned by the previous principals.

Overall, the schools did very well when it came to resource management as funds are being spent on the right things and providing students with what they need. The schools are also doing well with social and emotional learning as they have support in place and have kept some support in place.

The schools will be monitored again in April to see if there has been any growth from these implemented ideas and what can be further adjusted to make sure that the students will succeed.

“My hope for it is that we will get to a point where we are out of improvement and we are at a point where we are fully accredited and we can invite them in to see what we are doing but we are monitoring ourselves at that point,” said Ridley.