By LESLIE COLLINS
April 10, 2013
“I wanted to come because I figure it’s going to get me a good education. I was struggling just a little,” Garfield Elementary fourth grader Walid Abas said.
Abas was one of nearly 1,350 students in grades third through sixth who participated in the Kansas City Public Schools’ (KCPS) district-wide spring break school March 25-29.
KCPS offered the voluntary spring break school to give students an opportunity to review subjects slated for the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests and potentially improve their MAP scores.
“We’re just looking at every option available to try to help our students with their MAP preparations,” Garfield Elementary Principal Doug White said. “Of course, the overall goal is getting to where we are able to regain our accreditation. So, this is just one strategy to move student achievement forward.”
A number of Garfield Elementary students told Northeast News they wanted to attend spring break school to improve their MAP scores and to improve in subjects they found challenging.
“I can read good, but I want to improve in it so I can read higher level books,” said Garfield fourth grader Destiny Matthews.
Matthews said she enjoys reading and learning new words. Her favorite genre is historical fiction, especially books written about black history, she said.
Fourth grader Kimberly Garcia said she’s improving in math but needs to work on memorizing her multiplication tables.
“I feel smarter,” she said of improving her multiplication skills.
Not only did spring break school provide activities for students over spring break, it also gave teachers an opportunity to bond more with their students, said Garfield Elementary fourth grade teacher Dave Zeilinger. The smaller group size also allowed Zeilinger to further hone in on each student’s needs, he said.
In John McCarty’s room, fourth graders sat in groups to play a strategy dice game he devised called Land, Sea, Air. Fourth graders competed against each other to conquer land, sea and air and rolled the dice, practicing their multiplication and addition skills.
“In terms of learning, things like this are terrific because it hits them (students) from several different angles at once,” said McCarty, fourth grade teacher at Garfield. “A true and proper game has strategy involved with it, so it has some critical thinking. And, an educational game has all sorts of skills they use.”
McCarty has used the card game Apples to Apples to teach students about metaphors and Boggle to expand vocabulary, among other games.
“My wife and I moved here to Kansas City to be part of the solution,” McCarty said. “We lived in Clinton (Missouri) for the last decade and we witnessed the white flight (from Kansas City Public Schools). We knew that people were leaving the district in big droves. It’s trying compared to Clinton, but I really enjoy it. We’re glad it’s (KCPS) starting to rebound.”
In addition to the challenges of any urban core, McCarty said his class is diverse and his students hail from places like Vietnam, Burma, Somalia and Ghana, among others.
Fourth grader Salif Diop, who’s family is from Senegal, Africa, said he struggles in reading.
“I have a hard time doing reading, so that’s why I don’t like it,” Diop said. “When we got off for spring break, they gave us this packet for reading and math and it was good practice for me because I have a hard time (in reading). Where I’m from we don’t speak a lot of English and at home my parents only speak our language, Pular.”
Diop said he’s glad he attended spring break school and said, “He (McCarty) tries to make it fun for us.”
“It (spring break school) helps me because it’s giving me a head start for when I go to the next grade all the way up to middle school and high school because I know high school is really tough. I know college is really tough, too,” Diop said.
Diop added he wants to graduate from college and become a sixth grade teacher.
For fourth grader Quynton Slayden, the spring break session gave him something to do and allowed him to make new friends.
He also commended McCarty.
“He’s nice, funny,” Slayden said of McCarty. “He’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.”