Halfway through his first year at the helm of Lincoln County Schools, Superintendent Steve Boyton looked at the latest statewide schools achievement scores and even more closely at the scores of the Lincoln County School District and said, “We’ve got work to do.”
Boynton aims to put his know-how to work in Lincoln County the way he did as the former Superintendent of Schools in Arlington, Oregon on the Columbia River.
There he not only taught his students, but also put them to work…engaging them in learning, not just sitting in classrooms memorizing facts, figures and dates, but applying their learning to real life situations in the classroom and in the field.
And with that approach, he said, he brought Arlington High School from 305th in state achievement scores to a slot in the top ten.
Engagement seems to be Boynton’s favorite word because he uses it a lot. He says once students apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to the real world, the learning sticks with them – right on through statewide achievement testing.
Boynton says, like most school districts, Lincoln County has definite achievement problems at all levels, but none that can’t be fixed. He looked at the latest statewide school test scores and saw a mix: The high schools in Lincoln County are doing better but the elementary schools definitely need more instructional help. Overall, both can do better.
Boynton points to another challenge – Lincoln County’s high transiency rate. He says year-to-year growth in scholastic achievement is very hard to measure. He said this year’s fourth grade students may not look like last year’s third grade students with so many children leaving the coast and new ones moving in. So comparing test scores from grade to grade and from elementary to junior high to high school is difficult at best, when you’re not even testing the same students while still trying to evaluate “student progress.” A good many of them are not the same kids. But the tests don’t acknowledge that enough.
Boyton says he wants to make up for this problem by measuring student progress every three weeks so student growth can be measured in a more real-time manner.
At Taft High, Boynton says there is a lot of end-of-the-week intervention to make Fridays the day when kids have to review what they’ve learned that week and apply it. Much the same is going on at Toledo High. And it’s making a difference in test scores, Boynton says.
Boynton adds that encouraging students to prepare for college or
vocational school can improve on a program here on the coast like the one he operated in Arlington. Kids were able to take college level courses while still in high school. That way they graduate from high school with one or two years of college credits in their backpack. College then becomes just a two or three year academic excursion, depending on the subject matter.
Boynton again emphasizes that making education come alive for students in real life settings is a big motivator for students – forestry, commercial fishing, marine science, agriculture, food processing, electrical and mechanical engineering for boat manufacturing and overhauling. It’s all local and can be conveniently engaged. Such work environments make students think, reason and process what’s right in front of them.
Getting back to test scores, Boynton says “If we can expose our students to the facts and skills they need and have them applied immediately to the real world, both inside and outside the classroom, they’ll retain much more of what they’ve been taught. And if they do that, the annual scholastic achievement tests will take care of themselves.”