- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Tucked back in small rooms and quiet corners after hours at Miami Elementary are some of the school’s brightest fourth-graders.

With pencils in hand and a look of determination on their faces, 24 students focus on math problem-solving, writing and written response four days each week - but not because they need the extra help.

Principal Matt Rhoda named it Turbo Boost, an after-school club for fourth-grade students who are at or above grade level. Administrators selected participants based on their standardized test scores.

Since the club launched in October, four groups of Turbo Boost students have spent 45 minutes each day working with an intervention assistant, or a teacher’s aide.

Each week, two groups work on math, while the other two work on writing, then they switch. All the curriculum matches the new academic standards from the Indiana Department of Education, which emphasize college and career readiness in those subjects.

“We’ve heard for a number of years now to focus on the kids who are struggling, but what about the kids who are already successful?” Rhoda asked.

Turbo Boost students are meeting or exceeding the standards in their fourth-grade classes, so all the curriculum used after school comes from fifth-grade resources to challenge them, Carin Hollandbeck, a Title I teacher, told the Journal & Courier (https://on.jconline.com/1w6orvf ).

“For teachers, I think the general idea is to teach to the whole, and this group will continue to be successful and get good grades,” she said. “But here we can give them that extra push to work harder.”

Working on multistep math problem-solving and written responses to literature will help prepare students for standardized tests in the spring, but it also can improve their math and writing skills more than if they spent time only in the classroom.

High enrollment at the elementary school has students working wherever they can find space because many teachers use their classrooms to help students who are struggling.

This week, fourth-graders in math groups worked on factoring, reducing and division in the back corner of the library. At a table in the storage room of a first-grade classroom, students in writing groups answered discussion questions in the book, “Climbing the World’s Highest Mountains.”

Yanelly Guzman, 10, worked on a multistep multiplication problem in her math group. Problems are harder in Turbo Boost, she said, and it’s not just a bunch of numbers.

“There are more words, you have to read it and understand it to solve the problem,” Guzman said. “It’s more difficult.”

While the program has focused on math and writing, Rhoda said he hopes to challenge students with research projects in January. Students could choose a topic to research and write about, then create presentations on iPads to share with their classes. It’s a way for students to improve their writing skills, he said.

“We are continually enriching them so they don’t become stagnant,” Hollandbeck said. “If we keep that stimulation growing, I think we will see them succeed even more.”

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Information from: Journal and Courier, https://www.jconline.com


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