Helping PAWS at Harrison

CADIZ The Harrison Hills City School Board reviewed the progress of an after school program during its Thursday meeting when Program Director Ashley Duren gave a presentation of the Purposeful Academics with Social Connections (PAWS) program at Harrison East Elementary.

Duren noted that the goals of the program are to increase performance in Language Arts and Mathematics, as well as increase positive youth development and character education and positive family and community engagement. The program is grant-funded in the amount of $1 million during a five-year period. The intent is for the program to become sustainable partially in Years Four and Five and fully self-sustained in Year Six.

The program begins at 2:15 p.m. and ends at 5:15. Events include hands-on activities and older pupils frequently help younger ones.

A minimum of 30 minutes is used daily to completed homework, take an SRI test, or work on I-Station, V-Math or Brainchild. Pupils then have the option of meeting with educational aides for help in homework and classwork. Duren monitors progress and there is an emphasis on teacher communication.

She added that fifth and sixth graders also utilize opportunities for extra homework help. Students who have missed school also take the opportunity for classroom catch up work.

“We try and monitor their grades as closely as possible,” she said, adding that staff are able to check the progress books. “If kids were missing homework we could find out if they were failing, we could find out.”

She described the Brainchild program, which allows pupils to learn at their own pace and statistically measure progress.

“We’re really trying to get them back on track with where they ought to be,” she said, pointing out that 33 percent passed the pre-test, but after the implementation of Brainchild 78 percent passed the post test. “I thought that was really impressive.”

From pre-test to post test in Language Arts, the percentage of pupils with a grade of 70 percent or higher rose from 45 percent to 71 percent. In math, a change of 68 percent passing on the pre-test o 94 passing on the post-test was noted.

Duren gave an overview of the participation of the pupils and incentives offered to them.

“It’s very in-depth. It’s very much like what the OAA might be next year,” she said. “It’s all common core based, so they’re really looking at what the indicators are and where they should be.”

She also described the positive youth development resulting from the program. She also noted fundraising efforts. She thanked volunteers who donated their time to provide programming. These include Printsweet, a T-shirt design and fundraiser. Co-Ad also introduced STEM activities such as how to insulate a house.

Pupils have written letters to soldiers on Veteran’s Day. The Oglebay Zoo to You has participated in the program. Other programs include a presentation on how to differentiate between food and toxic substances found in the home. South Central taught pupils about electricity and Attorney A. Jenna Hokes spoke about fairness and justice. The Dome Theater gave a presentation about science and history. A total of 27 community members participated in Family Career Night. Pupils visited Harrison State Forest for a nature hike and clean up. They will also visit the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art May 2.

Duren also addressed character education. The program participates in Character Counts, which advances trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. She reported a drop in cheating by 30 percent, a 28 percent decrease in detention or suspension, a 39 percent drop in missed classes, and a 45 percent drop in teasing.

PAWS also hosted a monthly Family Night, with parents invited to an end-of-year celebration at Sally Buffalo Park.

Other advancements include the Creating Lasting Family Connections program to reduce problem behaviors in children and improve school performance.

Duren described the project advisory group and its work to ensure proper implementation. This group currently consists of staff and community members and will expand to include parent and student representatives.

The year’s results include a significant increase in grades from the first to the second quarter, and increase in Diebel’s scores. The improvements have been particularly dramatic for kindergarten through fourth graders. Older pupils are turning in homework ontime more frequently, participating more in class, decreasing bad behavior and showing increase motivation and attendance.

Goals for next year include OAA test preparation for two weeks during the summer, purchasing the Brainchild programming, at least 12 formal presentations to community groups and an effort to expand community involvement, sponsorship, fundraisers and asking elected leaders to place line items in the budget to fund the program through Years Four and Five.

Principal Bert Tharp voiced his appreciation.

“I would like to thank Ms. Duren. She has done a fantastic job this year,” he said.

Superintendent Dana Snider agreed.

You took a program from scratch, with no knowledge, and you created something that is making a difference at Harrison East and I couldn’t be any more proud of you guys and what you’ve been able to do in a short period of time and with no background.”

She added that the district is in the process of submitting grants for next year and will send one for Harrison North.

“Let’s hope we can add more to this next year,” she said.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com