- The current coach spent seven years in the classroom before taking this position and has taught at all three grade levels with which she works.
- The coach works with 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-grade classrooms in the morning for learning center-style teaching, then works with small groups from each grade in the afternoon.
By Mike Marsee
Oak Hill Elementary School’s commitment to novice reduction comes through in every session Monica Jones leads.
Jones is the novice reduction coach at the Pulaski County school, which was one of five public schools in Kentucky recognized as a 2018 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Her position was created to help students in mathematics, an area in which more of them were struggling.
“If we can continue to reduce our novice numbers, then we should continue to be successful. It raises the bar for everybody,” said Matt Cook, who was principal at Oak Hill from 2015 to 2018.
Jones is the second person to fill the role of novice reduction coach since it was created two years ago, and she’s convinced it has made a difference.
Katie Owens, the school’s curriculum director, said the school typically has a low number of novice students – only 7.6 % scored at Novice in math in 2017-2018, while 76.8 were Proficient or Distinguished – and she said there was every indication during the past school year that the coming K-PREP scores will show even more improvement.
Jones, who spent seven years in the classroom and had taught 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-grade students, has made the position her own.
“Usually our reading scores were great, but we never had anybody in math to really create the continuity and collaboration,” she said. “It really helped that I had taught at all three grades. I had materials from all three grades, and we try to say the same things, use the same acronyms, so every year we’re not starting over. They come in knowing the procedures and what to do, and it makes it so much easier.”
Krista Burton, a math interventionist who works with Jones, said that continuity is helping students learn.
“They’ve heard it in the 3rd grade, and they’re going to hear it and 4th grade and 5th grade, too,” Burton said. “It’s encouraging when were not with them and they’re on their own, you can hear them talking that lingo themselves.”
Jones is in the 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-grade classrooms in the morning for learning center-style teaching, then she works with small groups from each grade in the afternoon.
“We have moved to center-based teaching, and that’s worked out really well,” Owens said. “She is able go in there and do stations with them, and there are two teachers in each classroom in 3 through 5 at all times, so the kids are almost always with a grown-up in a small group, and that makes a big difference.”
Mark Flynn, who succeeded Cook as principal last year, said Jones has made a difference.
“She’s one of our strongest math teachers districtwide, and you wouldn’t want to yank her out of the classroom,” Flynn said. “However, we felt like it was beneficial to let her guide 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-grade math. That has been a big plus.”
“It’s teamwork, everybody working together,” Jones said. “I tell the teachers, ‘I’ll do whatever you need me to do. I’ll make tests for you, I’ll write short answers, extended response questions, whatever you need.’”
Flynn said Oak Hill “hangs its hat” on achievement, and he said that drives the faculty to succeed.
“They work hard with students, and that achievement level is always at a pretty good place,” he said.
First- and second-year teachers in Pulaski County take part in the district’s Team 1 and Team 2 monthly professional development and support program. Oak Hill supports its new teachers with an orientation that starts soon after the last school year ended, which gives new hires more time to get acclimated and to pair with a teacher mentor.
“We do that so they’re not waiting around all summer,” Flynn said. “We want to put a teacher in here that’s going to fit into the culture and wants success for the kids.”