Increasing requirements placed upon schools and teachers by the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) has prompted North Lamar Independent School District to focus on student performance in the lower grades. As a pilot program this year, Higgins Elementary, Pre-K - 1st grade, and Everett Elementary, 2nd - 3rd grades, have chosen to departmentalize students in kindergarten through second grade in an effort to raise student test scores and better prepare them for the grades to come.
Higgins Principal Claudia Pursifull chose to pilot departmentalization on her campus this year. Already seeing benefits of the program in just a short time since school began, she said, “The teachers love being able to focus their energy and expertise on one subject area! By doing this, we expect enriched and engaging lessons every day in every subject area.”
Emphasis for kindergarten and first graders is on teaching routines and procedures which lay the foundation for a smooth and successful school year. This year these students at Higgins are given ninety minutes each of English Language Arts Reading (ELAR), math, and science/social studies each day.
“Students are loving their new schedule! They have a defined classroom so they get excited about going to their classes. And our classrooms are set up with learning centers to support the instruction of the day,” said Pursifull. As an added bonus, both principal and teachers are noticing a decrease in behavior situations and feel it is due impart to student movement during the day.
Although excited about a large kindergarten enrollment this year, Pursifull found adding a new teacher after school started to be a schedule challenge and adjustment to both teachers and students. She added, “The teachers and I all knew that this would be a learning process for both staff and students.”
“Scheduling continues to be tweaked,” said Pursifull. “At Higgins we work as a team and as soon as a bump in the road comes along, I go back to the drawing board to work it out. We’re almost there.” Anticipated benefits of the schedule is higher scores in ELAR and math by the end of the year and a stronger foundation for future grades in science and social studies.
“Our goal, by next year, is to share this model with other elementary schools and provide our information and support in helping other schools to achieve excellence!” said Pursifull. “Our world is changing daily and we must modify and adjust our educational process to support our students in the best way possible.”