Dear Birch Grove Families,
School year is almost over, and it has been an honor working with all of you. Birch Grove continues with its tradition of high-quality arts education including all our performances. Besides all the wonderful things that you have become to expect from our school we have added a few new things.
Regarding our program, this year we received the highest honor by the Magnet Schools of America, the Magnet School of Excellence Award. Magnet School of Excellence Awards are given to only a select group of magnet schools that have demonstrated the highest level of excellence in all facets of the merit award application. Speaking of which, one of our own teachers was recognized for a high award this year. Mr. Lucas Staker was recognized as one of the semifinalists to Minnesota Teacher of the Year award. This distinction talks highly of his teaching and positive attitude towards change and his reflective attitude as a teacher.
We implemented Bridges math curriculum and number corner. This curriculum aims at developing mathematical thinking rather than set rules for solving math problems. Students have the opportunity to do hands-on activities as they master math skills. It has become normal to hear students say that math is their favorite class or at least one of their favorite classes. A huge acknowledgment to our staff for working on the implementation because a lot of learning took place as they learned the curriculum and all the additional time to prepare materials for their lessons. We are pleased with Bridges/number corner and look forward to our second year of implementation.
Girls Scouts is one of our new programs. It is a wonderful partnership which allows over 80 students to meet once a week, during their lunch-recess time to develop leadership skills.
Many of our male students are asking for a similar program. We met with scout leaders and we will be offering an after-school Cub Scouts troop. Cub Scouts are open to boys and girls.
We believe that enrichment is a stronger approach to increase student learning than remediation. Therefore, during the past few weeks we have been offering robotics and hip-hop dance on Mondays and Wednesdays after school. We have been running a robotics Saturday Academy for students as well to boost their learning. Both programs are well attended, and we thank parents for providing transportation to their children to these new programs. Our goal for next school year is to expand our after-school programing. Robotics have been teacher-led and taught with the support of our wonderful kitchen staff who applied for a grant so we can provide food to our participants cost free.
Our staff have been using data to provide differentiated instruction. Every week staff met in grade level teams to analyze either math or reading data to focus their teaching and use flexible grouping. Meaning, students were organized based on their academic needs and they move to a different group as they mastered the skills. We saw significant growth in both areas and in several grade levels we begin closing the achievement gap. Next school year we will continue with this practice including posting our data to make ourselves accountable to all of you. Our goal is to ensure 100% fidelity implantation of balanced literature (reading) and Bridges/number corner.
Social emotional needs are a key area of need at our school. We began the school year with trainers modeling Restorative Circles during the staff workshop days. “A restorative school is one which takes a restorative approach to resolving conflict and preventing harm. Restorative approaches enable those who have been harmed to convey the impact of the harm to those responsible, and for those responsible to acknowledge this impact and take steps to put it right. Restorative approaches refer to a range of methods and strategies which can be used both to prevent relationship-damaging incidents from happening and to resolve them if they do happen” (Restorative Justice Council). All the staff read The Restorative Practices Handbook for Teachers, Disciplinarians and Administrators and the teaching staff also read Restorative Circles in Schools: Building Community and Enhancing Learning. Several staff members will be reading different books during the summer to increase our knowledge and skills to better support our students social emotional needs--Fostering Resilient Learners: strategies for creating a trauma-sensitive classroom, Implementing Restorative Practices in Schools: a practical guide to transforming school communities, Creating Restorative Schools: setting schools up to succeed, and Lost at school: why our kids with behavioral challenges are falling through the cracks and how we can help them. Four of our own teachers led a staff development session around restorative circles and model restorative practices using a case scenario. This year we had two staff members supporting students and staff with behavior using a restorative approach. They also helped support areas such as providing proactive motor breaks and calming breaks, responding to call for student support, leading restorative circles and restorative conversations.
Budget cuts are reflected in some changes we are making for the coming school year. We will not have academic resource teachers, and both will be back as regular classroom teachers. We managed to keep our support staff at similar levels than this year as well as our art programing.
We are looking forward to a strong ending of the school year, wonderful summer programs including Freedom Schools (we are a Freedom Schools program site) and Camp Rocks and recharging our batteries for another great year of arts and learning.
Dr. Ronald Salazar Principal