Bruin Point named one of state's best low income schools
Most schools in Carbon County are classified as Title One, or low income institutions and with such territory comes challenges. But Bruin Point Elementary School in Sunnyside, stands on its own, and not because it has one of the highest poverty levels in the county at above 70 percent, but because it has achieved a high success rate in meeting its goals which include improved test scores and overall student academic achievement. In recognition of Bruin Point's progress, the Utah State Office of Education honored the school for closing its achievement gap. To accomplish this task, the school was required to improve language and math skills across disaggregated or divided student groups by at least 50 percent over two years.
Bruin Point Principal Melissa Hamilton describes the success as a result of "high expectations of students and teachers. Even though our students face challenges, we still expect to achieve our goals."
Every year, as a school, Bruin Point sets goals for its overall curriculum. Although here was much room for improvement in the past, things have come a long way this year. According to Ms. Hamilton, the greatest challenge has been meeting goals set by the state. In order for the school to be recognized this year, it had to make more than a year's progress within the year. To accomplish this, Bruin Point needed to make reforms both in teaching and overall demeanor.
"There were some curriculum changes (required) for us to more specifically focus on math, but our teaching emphasis is now based on research- based practices, which have been proven to work," said Ms. Hamilton.
Much of the research on which the school bases its teaching was drawn from various educational panels which were assembled to study effective teaching methods regarding subjects such as math and reading. Such research has pointed the school in the direction of "targeted teaching," as well as small group instruction and making real- world connections. Targeted teaching occurs when teachers help individual students based on their needs.
"We've worked under two federal reading grants, which are very specific on how and what we teach. Teachers here have embraced what we're trying to do and we've seen some dramatic results," said Tisa Manus, Bruin Point teacher.
When interviewed, sixth grade students Keely Marquez, Jacob Bullins and Stevey Larson all agreed that math was their most challenging subject. They also felt that they were prepared for education beyond Bruin Point.
"I feel very challenged and someday I would like to go to college to study animal science, but I would describe Bruin Point as actually kind of fun," said Keely Marquez.
The curriculum has been important when improving Bruin Point's student success rates, but equally important, according to Ms. Hamilton, is providing a safe, stable learning environment. In the past, the school had a high rate of teacher turnover. However now that there is more consistency in teachers, many have become more involved with the students and the community. Ms. Hamilton believes that it has made a difference.
"Our teachers have high expectations of our students and want to take a personal interest in the kid's learning. Everyone's on board and on the same page," she said.
The schools goals have also been steadily increasing. This year, Bruin Point set a goal to have about 80 percent of students test proficient on reading and for 75 percent to receive a proficient rating in math. While the population of the school has increased beyond the number that the facility was intended to hold, Ms. Hamilton indicated that it has not affected the school's goals or mission. However, the building will be expanded as the school district recently voted in favor of additions to the lunch room and other parts of the school.
"The kids are excited for the school and for each other. We're going to be a high performing school," concluded Ms. Hamilton.
Every school receives a report card from the State Office of Education which outlines their overall performance and provides a great amount of data analysis which can be used towards improvement.
Bruin Point has used these reports towards improvement its curriculum.
With part of the curriculum inteded to improve standardized test scores, it is important that students score proficient at a three or a four.