March 12 – Students at Emmet Belknap Middle School are preparing for the state math and English language (ELA) tests and this year school administrators decided the experience would be a little different.
One of the ideas put forward by parents at a recent “raising awareness” meeting was that children who do everything right and are passionate about learning should be given the opportunity to do even more. It was ideas like these that helped spur the construction of a program in which students would stay for an hour after school to take a course that Vice-Principal Shawn Murray said would prepare students for the tests ahead. March 29 and 30.
The goal of the program is to make students comfortable with the tests – not the final grades – and to feel that they have done their best, as well as that the school district has given them the tools to succeed, a said Murray, and the best part is that the 44 kids in the program so far are doing it willingly and with enthusiasm.
There are six sessions of each subject, ELA and math. So far, three ELA sessions have taken place and the math sessions will be next.
“We started with plenty of time,” Murray said. “We’re not rushed and that helps keep us fun.”
According to instructor Ashley Wallace, a math and science teacher for 5th and 6th graders, students you might not expect were signing up for what is essentially another school hour. Originally it was thought that the “overachievers” and “ambitious kids” would be the ones that would make up the class, but according to Wallace, along with Murray, the ELA and social studies teacher for 5th and 6th year. , Andrew Harrington, and Kirstin Dorsey, a 5th and 6th grade math and ELA tutor, that assumption was completely wrong.
“The kids you see struggling in the everyday environment stay after school to help themselves,” Wallace said. “It’s not something you usually see, but we have a wide range of students who take part in this after-school program.”
Jon McClain, a 6th grader, is one of the students in the after-school program and expressed his excitement.
“I just want to do super well, I just want to get into super big classes next year and do well in grade 7, moving up to 8,” he said.
McClain said he’s more “a math guy,” but so far ELA’s classes have been great and he’s learning things he didn’t know before. He also said it was completely voluntary and not something his parents forced on him.
“I actually took it to my dad,” he said. “Because it’s just an important event.”