Cook looks to build on growth in year 2

Cook looks to build on growth in year 2
April 26
08:45 2018

After test scores dropped the school into the bottom 5 percent of all elementary schools in the state, in the summer of 2016 Cook Literacy Model School adopted a new educational model that called for an instructional overhaul and several other major changes.

While there is still work to be done at Cook, in Year two under the Restart Model students are making progress.

According to statistics for the 2016-2017 school year, students met growth expectations and have shown improvements in third grade reading proficiency, fourth grade math proficiency, fifth grade science proficiency and Kindergarten-2 reading comprehension. Cook has also seen a 28 percent decrease in out-of-school suspensions.

“We’re really excited about those changes, but we want more,” said Dr. Paula Wilkins, principal and executive director at Cook. “Our goal this year is to exceed growth. It will show us that some of the things we are putting in place are helping us move forward.”

Wilkins, who served as the district’s director of professional development and recruiting before being named the principal at Cook, said one of the major challenges faculties and staff face is student mobility. She said, “We saw a 14.5 percent decrease in the number of students leaving Cook but that’s still a challenge.”

Wilkins also mentioned the importance of engaging parents. Since adopting the new model Cook has hosted several events geared toward motivating students as well as parents, including a recent talent show that attracted a large crowd.

“We’ve had bright and challenging spots with parent involvement so we’re trying to figure out how to harness what we know works. What we know is that when children perform, parents are in attendance,” Wilkins continued. “… I think those are small joys of what it means to be a child and to be excited. To see the number of students who wanted to participate then to see them get up there and do it, nervous and all, is just awesome.”

When looking back on the success and shortfalls of her first year at Cook Wilkins said, her most powerful learning lesson thus far has been the importance of making connections. She said year one was about setting expectations and building relationships, while year two has been about increasing expectations, and having hard conversations about where they need to grow.

“It’s not about how hard we work we have to connect our way in order to make an impact. I think we have some spots where we’ve connected well and we also have some areas where we need to grow,” Wilkins continued. “It’s not just that we work hard its results we are getting and sometimes those are really difficult conversations when people are working hard.”

Reading and science proficiency isn’t the only thing growing at Cook. Wilkins said since taking the reins two years ago she has grown as a leader. She said, “I’m learning that there are so many processes to engage adults in learning and to engage children to create a culture of learning that grows people everywhere.”

“… I think with getting more people on board and involved in the process, we can make this work.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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