A.L. Corbett Middle School in Wagener has launched an all school campaign to raise academic achievement at their school. To support these efforts, the teachers and administration have written and received numerous grants that will allow them to involve parents and community volunteers in significant ways in this campaign. One such grant was funded by the State Department of Education Eisenhower Demonstrations Program and is called STEP-UP, Science and Technology Enrichment Program for Underrepresented Populations. STEP-UP is an instructional improvement program designed to help teachers address the SC Academic Achievement Standards on an everyday basis in their science and mathematics classes. This is the second year that STEP-UP has been implemented in the Wagener area. Teachers and students from Ridge Spring-Monetta Elementary/Middle School, Busbee Elementary, and Wagener-Salley High School will also have the opportunity to participate along with A.L. Corbett.
The program has four components each aimed at improving the learning environment for students. The first component includes intensive staff development through monthly science and mathematics workshops or coursework. Science and math teachers such as Gail Lorrick and Alvin Corley have already taken a course training them on a technology-based curriculum called GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment). The GLOBE curriculum is being implemented at their school this fall so that students can collect hydrolic, soil, atmospheric, and biological data around the school yard and share it with other schools. Through the use of the Internet, students at A.L. Corbett will be able to collaborate with other students and scientists completing the same kinds of observations. They will be able to use worldwide data to improve their understanding of the global environment while contributing to the research of real scientists. Other teachers will have the opportunity to receive the GLOBE staff development later this year.
The second component of STEP-UP provides a professionally supportive classroom setting during the summer for pairs of teachers who have completed the coursework and inservice workshops to sharpen their new skills and knowledge while teaching students who need academic assistance. Computers will play a key role as a tool for learning and a tool for teaching at the teacher and student levels. The summer program is modeled after the Aiken County S.T.E.P. program that was successfully implemented for nineteen years. During the summer STEP-UP program at Corbett, fifty students will spend four weeks involved in hands-on science, mathematics and communication instructions. They will also receive cultural and career enrichment, take a weekly field trip, and engage in extended problem solving projects.
The third component involves community volunteers, parents, teacher cadets, and other specially selected high school students as tutors for elementary students in mathematics. Modeled after the National Diffusion Network HOSTS Program (Help One Student To Succeed), this part of STEP-UP provides academic assistance for those elementary and middle school students who most need it. Volunteers spend several hours per week in a one-on-one instructional setting helping students conquer mathematics obstacles. Joy Shealy, Principal of Busbee Elementary School, initiated this extremely successful program at both A.L. Corbett and at Busbee.
In the fourth phase of STEP-UP, parents and students will continue to participate in informal and formal learning experiences that demonstrate effective parent-child interaction and help parents take an active role in their children's education. Both A.L. Corbett and Busbee have developed an active teacher-designed and hosted Family Math and Family Science programs that have impacted other areas of parent participation. Over the past year since the first summer of STEP-UP, the parent participation at A.L. Corbett increased by nearly 1500%!!! Their Fall '97 Open House for parents featured hands-on lessons in science and mathematics and was a tremendous success. Through "stepped-up" effort and collaboration of administrators, teachers, and parents, the students in Area 4 schools of Aiken County have begun to see school differently. As indicated by their own comments, students' interest in school improved considerably as a result of the parent involvement, diversity of activities, and wider exposure brought on by STEP-UP. About the Family Fun Days, middle school students had many positive remarks including the following: "I really was happy having my mom at the activities and knowing some of the things we are doing." "I really felt good about it to know that the teachers care about what you do and how your family works together." "It [Family Fun Day] was good. It informed the parents, because me for one, I didn't like to tell my parents about school when I get home." "I was really pleased that my parents attended all of the family fun days and nights." Regarding the summer program, students said: "The part I liked the most was the activities and that is because you got to work with other people and do things as a team." "I like the part when we go to (continued on page 7)
class, 'cause we learn more--like how to write checks, build bridges, and communities." By far, students enjoyed the field trips more than any of the other activities. Students liked field trips because, "...we got a chance to get out and see some of the better parts of South Carolina." "We went places that some children can't go. We learned a lot on the field trips."
The STEP-UP Pledge, written by former STEP-UP student, Matthew Woods, captures the spirit of the STEP-UP Program:
I pledge to: Study and do my best. Train myself to work hard.
Prepare myself to learn.
Utilize my time wisely.
Put academics first.
By doing these things I will be able to STEP-UP.
A second grant received by A.L. Corbett is very appropriately called CONNECTIONS. The purpose of this grant is to provide exemplary science and mathematics instructional materials for every child, while encouraging greater parent participation, and more academic commitment from students. As a result of the CONNECTIONS grant, A.L. Corbett students will engage in monthly academic intramurals and Family Fun Night activities throughout the 1997-98 school year. These schoolwide efforts to "step-up" the academic performance of students are to be commended. A. L. Corbett, We Salute you.