I really haven't looked too closely at the listings of MAP scores in today's Joplin Globe except, of course, for seventh grade communication arts since I teach eighth grade at South Middle School in Joplin.
Joplin had more seventh grade students in the advanced and proficient areas than any other school in the area except for Mount Vernon, and South's scores (they weren't broken down in the newspaper) were higher than those for Memorial and North middle schools.
First, I hate to admit it, but I had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with those scores. I just have to make sure I keep those students headed down the right path now that they are in eighth grade.
The people who are primarily responsible are South's seventh grade reading teacher Linda Weaver, who is also head of the school's reading department, and our communication arts teacher Angel Mense, as well as a strong crew of special education instructors.
They were the ones in the trenches and their hard work paid off. Every sixth, seventh, and eighth grade student at South (and the other Joplin middle schools) has one hour of reading and one hour of communication arts (writing, grammar, etc.) every day. Mrs. Weaver and the reading teachers also work on numerous promotions throughout the year to keep reading at the forefront.
All teachers, though, play a part. Each Friday, the first 20 minutes of school, the homeroom or TA period, is spent in silent reading. Students are required to keep a library book with them at all times, in case they finish work on a class assignment and have time. It wouldn't be the truth to say that all of those students spend every spare minute reading, but you would be surprised at how many of them actually do that.
In an environment where so many students do not have access to books or newspapers at home, Linda Weaver and the rest of the reading department teachers, indeed all teachers and administrators at South, have done a great job in encouraging these young people to read.
Sadly, the lowest scores I noticed in seventh grade communication arts belonged to my former place of employment, the Diamond R-4 School District. It would be self-serving for me to say that the seventh graders who took the test were the first ones who did not have teaching them either writing or reading, but that is a part of the truth.
However, it is not I who made the difference, but the fact that during the first three years I was at Diamond, the district had a sixth, seventh, and eighth grade writing teacher. During my fourth and final year at Diamond, I had every student in the middle school for at least one quarter. I taught writing classes for all three grades, and reading classes for seventh and eighth graders. When Superintendent Mark Mayo decided he wanted me gone, he eliminated the writing and reading classes for seventh and eighth graders, then had the nerve to say that I was put on an unpaid leave of absence because I was the teacher whose loss would least affect the students.
Diamond students survived quite nicely without me, but not without the writing and reading classes. The dramatic drop in the MAP scores proves that.