Friday, September 23, 2016

Supporting Struggling Learners

I am pleased to share that Isle of Wight County Schools is undertaking a three-year effort to improve the effectiveness and equity of services for supporting struggling students both with and without disabilities.
 While we are proud of the quality of services provided to struggling students and the hard work of our staff who help all children achieve at high levels, ever-higher expectations require us to look for ways to further increase student learning and improve the way we deliver services to our students. The division has engaged the District Management Council, a Boston based organization, to assist with this project.

 This systematic study will examine our current regular and special education services, programs, procedures, and staffing for serving struggling students through the use of quantitative (both in-division and benchmark division information) and qualitative data gathering (using focus groups, stakeholder interviews and classroom observations). The review will also help the division understand how various categories of staff use their time as they serve struggling students. With this information, the division will be able to make thoughtful and informed decisions to ensure all of our students receive appropriate support. Later in the process, DMC will help codify practices that will best serve students in the division as well as help with the development of staffing guidelines in accordance with these practices.

The result should be a better picture of what is working well in the division, a better understanding of what the appropriate level of staff and services are, and overall improved delivery of services to struggling students and parents, and better utilization of division resources.

 We are excited to be undertaking this study, and appreciate your support in this process. I will be sure to keep you updated as the project achieves key milestones. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions. For more information contact: Mr. Thomas Chelgren at

Jim Thornton, Ed.D.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

First Day of School - An Expedition of Learning

I spent today on an expedition to all five of our elementary schools! I started at Carrollton early this morning as the students and parents came flooding through the front doors, eager to find their rooms and get started on a new year full of high expectations. I was able to watch students unload from the buses with drivers, teachers, and volunteers helping to make the start of the new year a positive one for all the children.

Hardy Elementary, Windsor Elementary, and Westside Elementary looked welcoming and fresh thanks to summer painting throughout the school and classrooms. Other buildings will get a facelift in the near future. 

Lunch at Carrsville Elementary was one of the highlights of my day. My taco lunch was hot and tasty and I learned a great deal of information from my new first grade lunch buddies. I then enjoyed some fun time on the playground.

Teachers at all the schools were already implementing strategies that they learned during summer professional development.  For example, Windsor Elementary students worked on the 5 C’s—Creativity, Collaboration, Citizenship, Critical Thinking and Communication. One teacher had a great collaborative activity where students had to describe what each of the 5 C’s looked like and sounded like.  Students were brainstorming and trying to come up with creative ways to define the 5 C’s.

Throughout the day, I saw many classrooms that have evolved into inviting learning environments. New furniture for fourth grade, including flexible seating, was a big hit with the teachers and students.  I’ve included a picture of Ms. Reed’s unique room which allows for a comfortable spaces and areas for students to work.

These are just a few of the wonderful things I experienced today in my travels. We have so many creative teachers!

Have a great week and I’ll share more with you soon.