Bald Eagle

BEA sees progress in English Language Arts

After more than a year administering a new English Language Arts program for Bald Eagle Area kindergarten to sixth-grade students, district administrators said they’re seeing student growth in the subject.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to improve, said James Orichosky, Wingate Elementary School principal and director of elementary education.

Last school year, the district implemented the Reading Wonders program that combined reading with writing, instead of teaching the two separately.

The program, through McGraw-Hill, was designed for Common Core state standards through research-based instruction, a report from the district said.

The district spent about a year studying testing trends from a five-year period that showed primary school students were not succeeding in the subjects prior to the change, Orichosky said.

Administration judged improvement though Scholastic Reading Inventory that focused on data from student test scores.

“We’ve seen improvement, and it was a huge jump,” Orichosky said. “The amount of gains we saw was unbelievable, and we got good feedback from students and teachers.”

But Orichosky said schools are still facing student writing challenges.

“That’s the one part we’re not satisfied with,” Orichosky said.

To help boost writing proficiency, the district introduced a program called the John Collins Writing Program — a systematic writing plan that breaks down writing into four tiers.

The creator, Collins, has also met with and helped train Bald Eagle Area teachers with his program.

“We’ve been doing Reading Wonders for a year, and knew there would be some trial-and-error based approach to it, but think this program (John Collins) was our missing link,” Orichosky said. “We can take students and teach them a step-by-step approach to writing before they just go straight into a long writing sample that’s good to be published. It’s building them up for something bigger.”

It also teaches students to write across multiple subject areas.

“You don’t just write in an English class,” Orichosky said. “You need those skills in math and science, too.”

With program experience, Orichosky said he expects students to improve during the next few years.

“We’re data driven, and we’re seeing an adjustment to the program from students and teachers, and that the structure is set up to help them succeed,” Orichosky said.