Kings Beach Elementary improves test scores after nutrition program, mandatory uniforms implemented |

Kings Beach Elementary improves test scores after nutrition program, mandatory uniforms implemented

Andrew Cristancho
Nevada Appeal News Service
Emma Garrard/Nevada Appeal News Service Brittney Sanchez, 5, Lupita Hernandez, 5, and Cecilia Garcia, 5, eat snacks on the playground at Kings Beach Elementary School last week. Students at the school are required to wear a uniform.

Kings Beach, Calif. – After three years of below-standard test scores, students at Kings Beach Elementary School have lifted themselves into a probationary period.

But even with the improvement, students must have better test scores next year.

Safe harbor is the term given to schools by the No Child Left Behind Act, where at least 10 percent of students who once tested below federally mandated standards improved scores. The school must also have a 95 percent participation rate in the testing and scores must reflect a growth from the previous year. Testing begins in second grade.

Officials at the school began requiring all kindergarten through fifth-graders to wear a uniform of blue pants or skirts with blue or white tops last fall – an act approved by Tahoe Truckee Unified School District’s board of directors and an overwhelming percentage of parents, according to survey results gathered last spring.

“(The uniforms) definitely help,” said fifth-grade teacher Danielle Karwowski. “I think it puts all the kids on the same level and puts more focus on the academic instead of social concerns.”

Third-grader Jimmy Rodriguez said he prefers not dressing to a trend.

“I like (uniforms) because you don’t have to wear long, baggy clothes,” he said.

But Katie Martinez, a fifth-grader, would rather be more fashionable.

“We hate them,” she said. “They have no style – they’re blue.”

Kings Beach Elementary improved in large part because over the last three years the school’s staff started improvement strategies that seem to have taken hold, said Principal Eileen Fahrner. She said blocking instruction and staff collaboration time were the two most significant programs instituted to improve test scores. Teaching the same subjects at the same time throughout the school is called blocking instruction, Fahrner said.

Additionally, Fahrner said that during weekly staff collaboration meetings, teachers ask each other three questions: What do we want them to learn, how do they learn it, and what do we do if they do not learn it?

Fahrner said along with these programs other areas of teacher focus are on tutoring students before and after school, and staff training on state-approved textbooks.

The school also implemented Project Glad, a two-day seminar when educators meet with teacher trainers to hone in-class strategies.

In addition, staff is now factoring the school’s nutrition policy of what students are allowed to eat into their educational plans.

“The food is healthy and recess comes before lunch,” said Fahrner explaining that kids come in hungrier. “Last year (before the program) we had lots of waste.”

Also, she said, kids are more focused on learning when they eat after their play break.

With all the improvements, Fahrner said, the students still have a challenge ahead of them because they must test over 10 percent higher than they did last year.