- Students in after-school learning clubs meet twice weekly and focus on a single learning area for nine weeks.
- The school is the third Laurel County school to earn Blue Ribbon recognition in four years.
By Mike Marsee
Some of the most important work at Wyan-Pine Grove Elementary School takes place well after the final bell.
Many of the Laurel County school’s students and teachers can be found participating in after-school learning sessions designed to help low- and high-performing students – as well as anyone in between.
The extra hours of learning have helped Wyan-Pine Grove Elementary earn recognition as a 2018 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. It was one of five public schools in Kentucky to earn Blue Ribbon status in 2018.
The after-school learning clubs can be a source of remediation for low-performing students, who receive additional help beyond what is available to them during the school day. They also serve as a source of motivation for high-performing students, who get additional instruction that allows them to continue to progress.
“That’s kind of how we run our everyday business,” Principal Jeff Durham said. “Most of our instruction is grouped into small group settings where we have those kids identified by what skills they know, what skills they’ve mastered and what skills they’re lacking.”
Students meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the first three of the four nine-week grading periods. Sessions within a nine-week period focus on a single area, such as reading comprehension.
“If they’re struggling in a particular area, they can stay and we’ll help them get caught up in that,” Durham said.
Students who are not struggling still find something for them.
“I think it’s been very effective for our high-performing students. Some of my higher-performing students are finishing 2nd-grade books at the end of the school year,” said Karen Vance, a 1st-grade teacher. “The ones that are performing at a higher level get taken even farther, so there’s no boredom. There’s always a challenge.”
The school tried something new for the fourth nine weeks of the 2018-2019 school year: a three-day session designed to help prepare students for the K-PREP assessment. About 90 4th- and 5th-grade students attended each of the three days, and teachers from all grade levels in the K-5 school stayed to work with them.
“When they see it’s for the benefit of the student and the kids, and parents are putting forth that effort, that makes it worth their while to do that,” Durham said.
The K-PREP test is hardly the only assessment of importance at Wyan-Pine Grove. Regular assessments are used to measure students’ progress, to pinpoint areas in which students need reinforcement or intervention and to identify achievement gaps.
“We let our data drive that, which is the key. You have to have a really good system to collect that data and analyze it,” Durham said.
During school hours, students receive small-group instruction in the morning, and there is a second session in the afternoon for those who need it. Durham said the number of students who are placed in the Response to Intervention model has steadily shrunk in recent years.
“You hate to see them go, but there’s no better news than to know that they left you to go to the next group,” said Terrelle Likins, a special education teacher.
“What we used to think was successful five years ago we wouldn’t consider successful now. That bar just keeps raising and our expectations keep going higher and higher,” Durham added.
Wyan-Pine Grove opened in 2006 in southern Laurel County. There is a high transient population in the community it serves – the school’s mobility rate for 2016-2017 was 29 percent – and 72 percent of its students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals.
It is the third Laurel County school to be named a Blue Ribbon school in four years, following Bush Elementary in 2015 and Johnson Elementary in 2016.