The school is also focusing more on data. Using test results and other information, the staff aims to figure out where each child stands educationally, what skills they need to master and what issues may be getting in the way of learning.
To that end, Bentley has
hired English/language arts and math “coaches” whose job it is to analyze data and work with teachers to improve student learning.
Students will be evaluated at least every six weeks to see what progress they have made and where they need to improve.
The system adopted by Bentley is part of a statewide effort to put what educators call a “laser-like focus” on every child.
Thanks to a $500,000 state grant, Bentley has added about a dozen new staff, including its first assistant principal, a library/media specialist — a position it has not had for years, a technology specialist and a bilingual adjustment counselor. It also has purchased new curriculum materials, including books and material from National Geographic.
Bentley is making a concerted effort to reach out to parents at a school that, in recent years, has had a low turnout at family events. That started to turn around last spring, and the effort continues this year with a family event calendar that includes a curriculum night for parents.
McFarland, who speaks English and Spanish, has made a personal effort to reach out to parents, from visiting homes to showing up at supermarkets where parents shop to engage in conversations about the school and their children.
The school is also focusing more on children just learning the English language, most of whom come from homes where Spanish is spoken. Bentley has 91 so-called “English Language Learners.”
Those students will be in full-day “sheltered English immersion” classes, where they will be grouped according to their abilities. Last year, many were pulled out of class. Again, McFarland said the aim is to focus on each child and move them along as quickly as possible.