Strategies for Student Success 2015 - Page 51

“We plan for the whole child,” said Debra Bentley, director of instruction and communications for JCS. “When a child feels safe, when a child feels mentally and emotionally sound, then the academics will come.” Professional development for teachers is centered squarely on student achievement. All instructors in the system – including those who work in parttime positions, like classroom assistants and tutors – have full teaching credentials. High academic expectations are the district-wide standard at JCS. Instead of thinking in terms of what 70 percent of students can achieve, Dr. Bentley said, the goal is always 100 percent. School and district culture supports this, as do community members and local funding bodies. Throughout the district, higher-order thinking and instructional differentiation are hallmarks of instruction. “When you can hire someone to work four to five hours a day to work with at-risk students or kids struggling, it’s great if they are fully credentialed as teachers,” Dr. Bentley said. Facilitating this at the district level requires outstanding administration at each school. “The expectation of high standards, and the personal needs of all students, begins with the building principal,” said Dr. Bentley. “The district has strong leadership in all schools.” JCS committed $2 million to RTI2 investments two years ago, funding system-level RTI2 coaches and allowing JCS to build RTI2 programming intentionally. This proactive approach has helped the program be successful, Dr. Bentley said. Setting the stage for academic success, JCS deploys a range of programs to ensure students are very well supported. For example, thoughtful food services ensure all students have access to nutritious meals and snacks. High-schoolers have the option of a pick-up breakfast after first period, since many kids this age tend to arrive at school just before class. Kiosk service offers healthy snacks throughout the day. Kids needing help with meals over the weekend can opt into a backpack program that sends food home Friday afternoons. Individual schools have programs to h