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East has made substantial progress towards adopting the Common Core Curriculum in K-2 in language arts and math. Upper-grade curriculum is based on the Mississippi Curriculum Framework. Transcending the concept that one program fits all when addressing the standards, teachers choose curricula materials, reflect, respond, and modify curriculum to ensure the success of all our students.

Our reading/language arts curriculum develops fundamental concepts in the areas of reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, research, and inquiry. Our literature-based curriculum includes fiction and nonfiction texts to teach comprehension skills. The basal series provides support to grow essential language skills. Reading fairs and family reading nights are opportunities to extend teaching of story elements, literature genres, as well as writing and speaking to an authentic audience.

Our math curriculum is based on the five content strands described in the Mississippi Framework as well as the Common Core domains. Resources are utilized to ensure the acquisition of skills while also addressing opportunities to develop problem solving, reasoning, and communicating mathematically. The fifth grade curriculum is taught using the JBHM program which provides opportunities for higher order thinking as students apply skills to new problems ensuring the acquisition of skills on a conceptual level.

The science curriculum focuses on hands-on science, inquiry, self-discovery, cooperative learning, communication, and lifelong learning as reflected in the state standards. The curriculum of the primary grades includes real-world experiences thematically integrated real-world experiences. The inquiry continues for students in the middle and upper grades with opportunities to conduct small group experiments in the science lab. While communicating about science through note-booking and cooperative groups, students learn content terminology and reasoning. Student interests are addressed through participation in the science fair reinforcing the use of the scientific method.

Gator Time is an enrichment and remediation hour built into the day. This unique time is when focused differentiated instruction is provided to students in large and small groups, one-on-one instruction, and peer tutoring. Gator Time has proven to be instrumental in student growth and achievement.

The expanding theme, including the progression in the study of people from self, families, communities, cities, regions, the United States, and to the world provides the foundation of the social studies curriculum. In the lower grades, thematic units provide opportunities for exploring citizenship and roles in the community. The curriculum of the upper grades is a balance of textbook and project-based learning addressing the standards. All grade levels use field trips, guest speakers, presentations, and plays to supplement the core curriculum.

Curriculum connections are made throughout the school day within support programs including physical education, library, and music. The curriculum is designed to support and connect to the academic standards within the classroom. Problem solving and collaboration are encouraged within the activities organized by the physical education teacher. Physical education curriculum includes nutrition and health. The music program provides opportunities for performing arts and music that reinforces literacy, math, science, and social studies. The curriculum introduces music theory and builds confidence with performance opportunities such as grade level plays that reinforce thematic units. The library curriculum is designed to provide opportunities for critical thinking, problem solving, and research by integrating information literacy into the curriculum. The librarian uses the media center to expose students to multi-media resources and encourages lifelong literacy and learning through reading.

The curriculum of the intellectually gifted program includes developing thinking skills, research, communication, group dynamics, creativity, and self-directed learning. These state-mandated outcomes are integrated within our weekly program designed to provide opportunities for learning thematic content and skills that can be applied in and out of the classroom.

The reading/language arts curriculum is standards-based including a balanced approach of thematic units and systematic programs in response to the needs of our diverse learners. Setting the foundation in kindergarten with phonemic awareness, Jolly Phonics is used to develop letter/sound relationships in a multi-sensory approach with the use of instruction through InterWrite Board technology. This research-based curriculum was chosen for K and first grade to address the needs of emerging readers and special needs students while addressing the CCSS. Literacy development continues through grade two with the use of Interactive Writing, which encourages students to learn to read through writing. Teachers use several tools to teach the writing process including Write from the Beginning, a thinking map program and strategies from the Live Oak Writing Project in-service. The language arts curriculum extends around the room with literacy-rich classrooms. Teachers provide opportunities for authentic literacy experiences including whole group research using Internet resources, displaying written captions on videos, and trade books in classroom libraries. Teachers develop fluency with choral reading, reader’s theater, and reading aloud to partners. Comprehension and listening skills are developed through read-alouds used in every classroom daily. This also provides teachers an opportunity to model comprehension strategies. As students progress through the grades, the focus of the curriculum shifts to incorporating more complex text-based instruction of reading strategies within book studies and non-fiction texts. Teachers develop curriculum utilizing materials from many sources based on meeting the objectives within the standards. Literacy skills are developed through the use of modeling comprehension strategies using authentic literature and non-fiction text as well as supported by the use of the Houghton Mifflin reading series, the series available that most closely aligned with the state standards at the time of district adoption. The school-wide Accelerated Reader program, chosen to encourage independent reading, helps all students continue applying reading and self monitoring skills.

For students in need of remediation, a supplemental curriculum is delivered within small groups using programs such as SRA, Reading Assistant, and Hear Builder. Students in need of enrichment continue to develop as readers with the adoption of curriculum that allows for the continuation of growth through self-pacing programs such as Study Island and Classworks computer programs. The Fast ForWord computer program also supports the reading standards by developing necessary memory and retention abilities needed to be a successful reader.

East Hancock Elementary strives to use a variety of resources to meet the curriculum needs of all students. As we work to mold creative thinkers and problem solvers, we find that math is a crucial area to teach these skills.
Kindergarten through second grade teachers use the math standards set forth in the Common Core State Standards and the EnVision Math program. EnVision Math was chosen because it is aligned to the standards set forth in the Common Core State Standards. The EnVision math program embraces the focus and coherence called for in the CCSS in order to improve mathematics achievement. CCSS and EnVision curriculum provides in-depth student understanding which leads to higher student achievement. This scientific based program builds a foundation for all students because it provides hands-on learning that includes real life problem solving. The technology component allows the students to visualize the learning concepts. Students must progress from a concrete level of understanding to an abstract level in order to test successfully on that skill. Concepts are taught so that students see the “whole” not just “parts”. Third through fifth grade use the objectives in the Mississippi frameworks. As a district, a pacing guide was developed for teaching the objectives. Our teachers developed many of their own resources because no single source met all objectives. Kindergartens through fifth grade teachers teach math using technology in whole group, small group, or centers.

Interventions, remediation, and enrichment are addressed during Gator Time. Data from the STAR Math test, MCT2 results for fourth and fifth graders, and classroom performance determines a student’s needs. Students falling two or more years below grade level attend an intervention group where the Triumphs math program is used. This program concentrates on reteaching, hands-on activities, manipulatives, and real world application. Students needing remediation or enrichment work in small groups or use computer based programs such as Study Island, Classworks, or Accelerated Math. Study Island was purchased by our school to enrich and remediate our curriculum. This program provides individualized instruction on math skills. The students are able to work in class or at home online. Third through fifth grade teachers are trained in the online technology piece of EnVision math that can be used to enrich and remediate skills. All interventions, remediation, and enrichment are research-based.

Additional Curriculum Area
The mission of East Hancock Elementary is to “provide a curriculum that is designed to foster critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and social skills in an environment that encourages a sense of pride and a lifetime love of learning”. Our science program accomplishes this through inquiry-based learning. At every grade level, students gain more understanding through the process of “doing” rather than by direct instruction. Meaningful discussions cultivate communication and social skills as they learn about scientific methods. Teachers collaborate across grade levels to ensure that students have the background knowledge that will enable them to be successful in their inquiry-based experiments.
In primary grades, interdisciplinary units bring science to life. These thematic units are based on non-fiction text embedded with science to cultivate a natural curiosity. During the farm unit, students hatch eggs; during the insect unit, students study the life cycle of a butterfly by watching it actually happen in the classroom. Other activities include computer programs and center activities that involve authentic learning. In conjunction with a recent space unit, representatives from NASA came to guide young students through the principles of rocketry as students made rockets. Through these real life connections, our students participate in critical thinking and problem solving.

In grades 3-5, multiple resources such as FOSS kits are used to engage students in inquiry-based instruction including integration of non-fiction content correlating to language and reading standards. Students visit our lab to conduct experiments in a scientific setting. One activity includes replicating a machine from one the teacher has hidden in a bag. Using provided materials, students apply prior knowledge of levers, switches, and electricity to eventually create their own humdinger – a simple machine that hums and dings. Students are encouraged to formulate their own plans, carry them out, and analyze their successes and failures. By encouraging students to explore and not fear failure, they become scientists. Through activities such as these, students apply their critical thinking, problem solving skills, and communication skills in small groups, all essential in careers as adults.

Interdisciplinary skills also are addressed through our science program. Mathematics is incorporated through data collection, graphing, and various formulaic computations. Through note-booking students keep a running record of their experiments, terms, aha moments, and artifacts obtained in the unit. Rigorous non-fiction text improves reading and comprehension skills while instilling a life-long inquisitiveness.

Instructional Methods
Multiple instructional methods are implemented at East Hancock in response to students’ academic needs and learning styles. The school utilizes a balanced, research-based approach including skills-based direct instruction in whole and small group settings, hands-on opportunities, modeling, guided practice, scaffolding and inquiry-based lessons.

Technology such as InterWrite boards provides presentation of lessons, videos, songs, and interactive learning games and websites which promote student engagement and retention. Document cameras enhance large group viewing of artifacts, experiments, and other resources. Personal Response Systems give teachers immediate feedback to assess the level of learning taking place. Inquiry-based instruction along with high level questioning and hands-on opportunities are embedded. Each student experiences computer-based instruction through Classworks, creating an “individualized learning path” as they progress. Students performing below grade level in specific areas are also assigned lessons through Classworks to provide additional academic support. Special education students receive research-based instruction in Read 180, as well as modified instruction in the classroom based on individual needs and IEP’s. Modifications include audio versions of texts to help increase reading fluency and the use of peer buddies for inclusion students. Gifted students receive individualized instruction within a weekly pull out program to pursue individual research, problem-based learning, and whole group critical analysis. Smaller subgroups such as ELL students are given IPADs with access to Rosetta Stone and digital picture cards. ELL and other special needs students use the IPAD’s voice translator to communicate with peers and teachers. Economically disadvantaged and homeless students are given the first opportunities to participate in our after school tutoring program.

The hallmark of school-wide differentiated instruction is the implementation of Gator Time, an intensive hour of remediation and instruction based on individual needs. Students receive varied instruction defined by ongoing data analysis such as STAR reports, weekly assessments and district assessments. Students requiring interventions have opportunities to revisit objectives within small group instruction using programs like SRA reading program and Triumphs math, and self-paced computer programs such as Fast Forward and the Reading Assistant fluency program. During this time, opportunities for students performing on grade level continue with cooperative learning groups such as literature circles, project-based choices, and centers that reinforce currently studied objectives. Literature circles are grouped according to reading abilities and/or student interest. Our art, music, and physical education teachers work closely with their colleagues to create cross curriculum instruction to enhance student learning and provide real world applications.

Professional Development
Highly effective teachers increase student achievement and East Hancock is committed to cultivating a staff that produces results. Professional development is ongoing and adaptive based upon results of a yearly needs assessment. The staff is motivated to learn together and independently and we believe in life-long learning for ourselves and for our students.
In response to the Revised MS Frameworks and Common Core State Standards adoptions, teachers unpacked objectives/standards, created pacing guides and learning units, aligned curriculum resources, and identified new resources needed. Teachers were trained to effectively use Jolly Phonics. This multi-sensory approach puts all students especially those at risk on a fast track to reading. Teachers attended district professional development for Thinking Maps to help students visualize connections and processes and JBHM Mathematics to boost student achievement. Primary grade teachers were trained in Interactive Writing which helps students in the early formation of reading and writing conventions. Teachers partnered with Live Oak Writing Project to develop student centered writing rubrics and chose exemplars for classroom use. Throughout the curriculum changes, the focus has been on understanding the curriculum and how it drives instruction, creating pacing plans that recognize opportunities for connections, systematically checking for progress, and analyzing assessments.

The staff has had extensive training using classroom technology such as the InterWrite™ Board and Pad, personal response systems, and document cameras. Teachers share lesson plans and resources through On-Course to promote collaborative teaching and provide a continuity of services within the grade level.

Teachers received training in understanding student data generated by STAR Reading/STAR Math, Accelerated Reading, Fast ForWord, Classworks, Study Island, and Achievement Series. Analyzing data together greatly impacts teachers by allowing the focus to remain on student need.

Teachers meet weekly as a PLC to discuss student performance and progress, interventions necessary to close gaps, and instructional strategies needed for successful academics. When there is a need to learn something new, they learn. Committees are also used for school-wide improvement in areas which include academic achievement and school culture.
Professional development is maximized at East Hancock to offer students the best of what each individual has to offer so student achievement and growth can be maximized. Student need is the driving force in professional development initiatives, and with changes in administrators and personnel, this focus has allowed a continuum of success.

School Leadership
East Hancock’s leadership philosophy is defined as a collaborative, problem-solving approach aimed at maximizing student achievement. Leadership is reflective of our collaborative spirit. We believe that a well-managed school leads by example and is one that empowers teachers and students to lead as one collective voice. Leadership is cultivated at all levels to encourage motivation, self-confidence, and ownership.

The principal, assistant principal, lead teacher and counselor serve as the core administrative team. Our leadership team is comprised of the administrative team, grade level and special subject area representatives and one PTO representative. This structure ensures every voice is heard to support all aspects of child development. The team collaborates to make informed decisions related to instruction, resources, finance, programs and activities. This structure improves ownership and ensures that policies are focused on student need and communication is fundamental in ensuring this. For example, the “hub of communication” is our Monday Morning Memo that keeps teachers prepared for the day to day operations and assists them with forecasting their week.

Our leadership truly begins from the ground up. Teachers share their voices in duty choices, event planning, and staff development through a process of brainstorming, troubleshooting, and reflecting to further ensure instructional time is maximized. Teachers are treated as professionals and are given the flexibility to make instructional decisions over resources and programs leading to a best practices-approach towards student achievement. Teachers grow leadership and success as they introduce and mold initiatives. Two years ago, fifth grade teachers provided research-based arguments for a move from departmentalization to a self-contained environment. As a result, instructional time was maximized, stronger relationships were fostered, and students scored higher on assessments.

Based on our mission to foster critical thinking and problem solving, we acknowledge the need to develop student leaders. True to our philosophy, classes have student ambassadors who are responsible for promoting our school image to visitors and new families. They are instrumental in developing a positive school culture and building relationships. Students lead in their classrooms with jobs such as wish-well managers who write get-well cards to sick students. Our student council finds solutions to help needy students, raise money for school beautification projects, and offer ideas for school improvement. This philosophy creates an environment where students take risks, find support, and experience success. Recognizing them as stakeholders promotes student engagement and therefore increases achievement.