GREENVILLE — Students at the Montcalm Area Career Center (MACC) focus not only on learning a technical skill, but also on core academic concepts. Sometimes, they struggle to grasp those core concepts, just as traditional students do.
During a regular meeting Thursday, Celena Mills, associate superintendent for the MACC, told the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) Board of Education about the ways administrators have been using data from assessments to evaluate what areas students need to work on.
“We’ve been looking at how we can help students. We find we have students who are really struggling with their academic skills, more so than in past years,” Mills said. “We have pockets of kids who just don’t know how to attack some of those things.”
Mills cited a health project that required students to convert temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit. She said some students had the formula and had a calculator, but were unsure about how to solve the problem.
“We sat down as a staff and looked at how we can provide more interventions to help those students,” she said. “We have a plan in place to use some of our staff in a little bit of a different way so we can get those kids up to speed.”
MAISD Board Vice President Mark Christensen asked Mills if she found that students were apt to turn to Google to answer questions that come up. Mills said there are some instances where students will utilize their smartphones to find an answer to a question, but in that case, staff members want students to know the formula so they are able to apply the information in a state assessment.
In addition to making sure students are concrete in their understanding of academic concepts for state assessments, Mills said it’s important for them to understand how to take what they’ve learned and apply it in real world situations. If students are found to be struggling with their understanding of something, staff members from the MACC maintain open communication with staff members within the various school districts students come from.
“A lot of the things that we’re doing are really basic math concepts, fractions and basic formulas,” Mills said. “Sometimes students have forgotten to use those things. They’ve moved on and they haven’t used those skills in a while in the same way. Some of it’s catching that and reminding them.”
MAISD Superintendent Ron Simon said recently Bob Ferrentino, president of Montcalm Community College (MCC), presented data on students enrolling at MCC to a group of area superintendents.
“(He) presented data on their students who are enrolling at the community college and how many of them required remedial math or English/language arts,” he said.
Simon said he met with Ferrentino and MCC Vice President for Student and Academic Affairs Rob Spohr to discuss curriculum and “trying to bridge the gap” between what the school districts teach and how students transition into the curriculum at the college level.
Mills said the positive thing about this is that a problem might have existed before, but faculty members just haven’t been able to see it.
“We’ve never collected data in a way that we are now so by utilizing universal screener (assessments), we’re seeing things sooner. Instructors are having neat conversations about academics we’ve never had before,” she said.
By catching issues early, Mills said, it gives teachers the chance to focus on areas of academics that students might be weaker in.