• October 25, 2014

Palo Alto honors special students

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Posted: Sunday, May 11, 2014 4:30 am

With obstacles in their path, a group of students worked diligently through the school year to catch up and made their own success.

Palo Alto Middle School principal Matt Widacki said he wanted to honor the special education students who used a technology supplement called Success Maker to make strong strides toward catching up with their peers.

He wanted the honor to be special, so he decided to award those who earned a full year’s worth of learning in math with more than a month left in the school year.

“We were hoping for four or five and we had 17 students meet that standard,” the principal told the group of honored students, along with their parents and teachers assembled in the school library.

Widacki called each student to the front of the library to receive a certificate and congratulations, and the group enjoyed pizza and cake at the end.

“These are amazing kids,” the principal said. “We are honoring their hard work and their teachers’ hard work to be on track in all their classes.”

In a gradual rollout, Killeen ISD has integrated customized technology called Waterford Early Learning and Success Maker to help students work at their own pace to catch up in math and reading and prepare for state testing.

This school year, the technology was available in all Killeen ISD high schools and middle schools and 10 elementary schools. It will expand to the other 22 elementary campuses next school year.

Linda Levine, a Pearson North America School Services educational consultant, complimented the Palo Alto staff and students for the impressive gains.

While 17 students at Palo Alto earned at least one year’s worth of growth in about nine months, two of those students made two years’ growth.

More than 90 percent of the students using the technology at Palo Alto demonstrated mastery in their math goals, outpacing all other Killeen ISD schools.

“It came from the principal,” Levine said. “He was determined to implement it with fidelity, give the time needed, and worked with the campus technologist and special education teachers on the ground to use it every day.”

Special education teacher Steve Haren also praised administrators for committing to the successful program.

He said the technology provided a self-paced challenge for students who required it and allowed him to focus more time on teaching new material.

“I showed them their sheets weekly and they got excited,” the teacher said, explaining that he printed individual students’ progress and rewarded their gains, building momentum to continue.

The individualized program determines a student’s particular grade level in a given subject. As the student works, the program determines when mastery is achieved and the student can continue.

Success Maker also provides reports that teachers use to track performance and plan students’ individual learning plans.

Killeen ISD was the first district in Texas to use the technology products in special education specifically. This is the fourth year for Killeen ISD to use the tutoring intervention.

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