Ionia and Montcalm county school districts collaborate to benefit students

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 11:23 am on Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Karen Bailey, Hair on Fire facilitator, talks with teachers Tuesday from Montcalm and Ionia counties who are participating in Hair on Fire. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

Two counties are coming together to develop a student-focused system called Hair on Fire.

School districts in Montcalm and Ionia counties are working on the program that focuses on the needs of students.

Hair on Fire is a three-year plan established to help understand the common core system put into place by the Michigan Department of Education in June 2010.

Program Director Michelle Goodwin said after receiving the common cores from the state, educators were not sure how to approach what should be taught at which grade level.

“(The common core) doesn’t say what to read at what level,” Goodwin explained about literacy in particular.

Hair on Fire helps guide teachers and keep learning consistent across the board.

All but three schools in Montcalm and Ionia counties have jumped on board and are participating in the program, which is voluntary.

“It’s a commitment,” Goodwin said.

Currently, the program is in its first year and is focusing on standards. The second year will focus on assessments, while the third year will focus on communication.

Hair on Fire will address four questions to make sure students are successful. The questions are: “What do we want students to know and be able to do?” “How will we know if students know it?” “What will we do if students don’t get it?” and “What will we do if students do get it?”

Overall, Hair on Fire helps teachers to better understand the common core standards, giving them a consistent plan to teach off of to help students learn better, Goodwin explained.

“No other ISD is doing it this way, no other ISD is doing it at this depth,” Goodwin said. “It’s about the passion educators have for doing what the kids need to do.”

By Montcalm and Ionia counties collaborating to make this happen, Goodwin said teachers are able to rely on each other’s strengths and resources.

“This wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration of the districts,” Goodwin said.

Montabella Community Schools Curriculum Director Jacki Fredricks said Hair on Fire allows teachers to look at their depth and see where they need to be to help students be successful.

“There are many different ways to get to one place,” Fredricks explained. “This is one way to get from point A to point B. It’s an efficient way.”

Fran Clemence of Lakeview Community Schools agreed, saying it helps teachers more clearly see what students need. She said a program like this is invaluable because of not what it does for the teachers, but for the students.

Duane Ellis of Belding Area Schools said the program allows teachers to gain a greater depth of instruction and understanding.

“I am incredibly proud of this program,” Ellis said. “Everyone has been excited from the beginning.”

To learn more about Hair on Fire, visit online.

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