Buffalo Island Central West elementary was one of seven area schools recognized by the National Center for Educational Achievement (NCEA) at the Just for Kids award event held Jan. 27 at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock.
(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
Accepting the award was Principal Dr. Kima Stewart. Dr. Stewart expressed appreciation to the hard work and dedication of her staff and students.
NCEA is a non-profit, non-partisan ACT organization whose mission is to help students reach college and career readiness for every child. More than 250 educators from across the state participated in the "Helping More Arkansas Students Achieve College and Career Readiness: What's Next?" symposium.
Buffalo Island Central West was recognized for growth achieved better improvement rates for their students compared with other schools with similar demographics. BIC's fourth and fifth grade math progress was also recognized.
"Proficient is not enough is the next push in education," Dr. Stewart said. "College/Career readiness for every child is our goal. Through the NCEA programs we are hoping and intend to decrease the numbers of high school graduates needing remediation and getting the graduates ready for the workforce.
Dr. Stewart said she felt very proud of the staff and students.
"Obviously, teachers are the component of good things in education," she said. "There is no substitute for hard work. Our staff and students work hard."
Several years ago Dr. Stewart said the district started a push to improve the math scores.
"One of the things we have done differently in this district is double the time of math instruction," she said. "Math was worth 50 percent of the scores of assessment in the fourth through sixth grades and only one sixth of the day was used for math instruction. We looked at ways to get more time. We only have so much time in a day, so we took less recess and less study hall time. We have two math classes, computation and application."
She also pointed out this is their fifth year to have a math specialist, Karalee Gibson, on staff.
"She has been able to guide our instructors," Dr. Stewart said. "She has helped with professional development and is available to attend workshops and serve on committees across the state for Benchmark tests and frameworks."
Dr. Stewart also gives credit to the program Kids for Character implemented at BIC West. It has decreased the discipline time and gives the students self-esteem. She also points out the technology has been added to the classrooms.
"We have a high level of parent contact in this building also," she said. "Things are changing. Twenty years ago we started on page one of the text books and at the end of the year we finished on the last page. Today teachers have frameworks and standards. It is a challenge for students and teachers. Our philosophy here is we believe every kid must learn. Parents send us the best they have and we have to give them our best."
Phyllis McFarland, counselor, said she is also very proud of the recognition.
"We may be small and in a rural area, but we have the best strategies and great technology available to our students," she said.
McFarland expressed her pride in the principal, teachers, and students at BIC West.
"We have an after school program, offer summer school, day tutorial, a math specialist and we take a personal approach to help our students," McFarland said.
"If a student does not grasp the work, it is our job to meet their needs," Gibson said.
Dr. Stewart said in her career she has seen a lot of fads come and go.
"Fads are gone," she said. "The legislature and leadership challenges us in real ground work. We have come a long way in Arkansas. We have become a leader. I am not and have never been scared of change. If there is a better way, we are looking for it. If something is not working, we don't wait for the end of the school year, we change it. If something is working, we will fight to the end to keep it."
The math teachers in the fourth through the sixth grades are Reba Wimberley, application math, and Karen Wallace, computation math.
Sixth grade students Blaire Wildy and Trevor Couch both agreed they are ready to meet the math challenges ahead.
"Our math teachers challenge us to go beyond doing junior high work," Wildy said.
"We enjoy the hands on learning," Couch said. "We also get to use the Smart Board."
Gov. Mike Beebe presented the awards to the schools following the symposium for educators.