EATON — The Ohio Department of Education nominated 26 schools in Ohio to compete to be one of two nationwide. Eaton Community Schools’ William Bruce Elementary School is in the running to be one of them.
Bruce Elementary Principal Mark Matthews and ECS Superintendent Jeff Parker received the invitation from ODE in early October.
“A lot of it has to do with how we’re using our Title Tutors, and how our students are making growth from year to year. They looked at language arts and math for exceptional student performance for two or more consecutive years. And then closing achievement gaps between student groups. We meet four times a year with each of our classroom teachers to go over students who are in our MTSS (multi-tiered system of supports) process to find out what their needs are,” Matthews said said. “And then we have our Title Tutors for small group pullout, where students are going there in place throughout the day to get skills and they need to help close gaps. Our classroom teachers are working in the classroom with small groups with the same students so they’re getting tier one whole class, they’re getting tier two with the classroom teacher, and then tier three with a small pullout. So they’re getting a lot of different moving pieces all coming together to help the students make the growth they’re making.”
This has been ongoing for the district, according to Assistant Superintendant MissAnne Imhoff. “The Bruce MTSS team actually went to professional development back in 2017. And that was when we switched from what we call RTI (response to intervention) focus to a bigger umbrella. And so every year this team has kind of been the pioneer leading all of the revisions and changes so they’ve kind of evolved into a system we could replicate. Now we’ve replicated that at East and at the middle school and we’ve taken it to the high school on a different kind of look, but they have every year added a little bit,” she said.
“Making sure we have wraparound services for students who have behavior issues that might be affecting academics, or who we’re really concerned about their mental well-being, we’ve got wraparound services for that and so what I think this team is seeing, and it’s influencing the bigger state test scores, is that we are doing it holistically,” she added.
“We make sure that we have professional learning time at the beginning of the year for all of our tutors so that they’re doing a framework that’s research based. We explain to them how to use the data and the strategies that are evidence-based. It’s a very controlled system in that we want everyone not lockstep, because we know if these kids aren’t learning one way, we have to do it another way. But how you learn is how we’re going to teach and instruct, so there’s a lot of moving parts in the system that all of us have had a hand in trying, to make sure that we meet each individual student’s needs.”
Building coordinators look at the data to see what the program can continue to do, what needs to be tweaked, or tried differently.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Matthews said. “You know, in my short time being here this is the first time we’ve gotten anything like this kind of recognition. And it just goes to show the hard work that our teachers and tutors are putting in. It’s been really nice.”
“I think it is good to see that that kind of entity is looking at , and recognizing, the changes that are going on,” Superintendent Parker said. “This has been change and we’ve made a commitment,” he added.
Carrie Oswald became the TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) in 2021, according to Parker, who said she does a lot of coordinating for the program. “We’re thankful that she is she is staying with it. And then we implemented building coordinators.”
“I’m not in the trenches with the teachers and with even the principals, it might be more work,” Parker said. “But it’s definitely different work and different work I know for a fact, lots of times, feels like more work. And so these teachers have worked through it and are continuing to work through it. But at the end of the day I think what it is to me, is recognizing we are committed to each individual student.”
“For me, it’s like a recognition of the consternation, the challenging work, the different work,” Parker added. “It’s a recognition that that our teachers are working through that to try to do what is best for each individual kid.”
The National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators organizes the Distinguished Schools recognition. Each state has the opportunity to designate two schools based on two categories: exceptional student performance for two or more consecutive years and closing achievement gaps between student groups.
The Office of Federal Programs selects the two nominees for the recognition based on the scoring of their applications. If Bruce Elementary is selected as one of the two schools the National Association for ESEA State Program Administrators will contact the district regarding its national conference on Feb. 7-10, 2024. The national distinguished schools are recognized there. The school is also invited to attend and present on its best practices at Ohio’s Title I conference later in the spring in Columbus.
ECS Director of Student Services Dr. Aaron Horton is responsible for the district’s grant funds which includes Title funding, according to Imhoff, who said Horton is also instrumental in coordinating the wraparound services with the principals, school counselors and mental health therapists.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on X @emowenjr.