Students will try out new reading techniques at Westwood Elementary when they’re welcomed back Aug. 31, said principal Paul Holland.
Holland is entering his second year at Westwood after serving at Westview Elementary in Avon Lake’s from 2003 to 2015. His school will welcome 280 students this year with hours from 8 a.m. to 2:25 p.m.
“We’re going to put a major focus on guided reading,” he said. “It’s a very successful process with a lot of research behind it. Teachers will sit down with kids and process the story piece by piece instead of just handing it to them and telling them to read it.”
Westwood received a B on its 2015-2016 Ohio Report Card for K-3 literacy.
“Guided reading involves asking the kinds about what they’ve read as the book or story is progressing and helping them with vocabulary,” said Holland. “It’s far more interactive than how it’s been handled in the past.”
He would like to see kids get to Westwood with a better grasp on their early reading skills.
“We need to get the community as a whole to take reading more seriously,” he said. “I’m afraid many of our kindergartners and first-graders coming in do not know how to read. They haven’t been familiarized with books and how written text looks. They don’t know how to knit words together. Their parents may talk to them, but it’s a big difference to see it on paper. If you sit down with your child and read, they see how you read left to right and how the words look next to each other.”
Holland thinks Wellington has the capability to improve in this area.
“A higher percentage of kids in Avon Lake walked in very much exposed to books and literature. They were further along. The difference is parent involvement, plain and simple. Wellington could be every bit of what Avon Lake is in this regard. Parents just need to be reading to their children more often,” he said.
Most staffers from last school year are returning and settling into their roles after a large number of cutbacks and job shuffling in the district since 2014.
“The overarching guideline I gave has three steps: Love the kids, love the kids, and love the kids. Ultimately, children remember more clearly how they were treated than learning two plus two. The kids will work for you if you treat them right. We were able to achieve that atmosphere in our first year. I had a lot of parents tell us how much their kids were enjoying their time here.”
Standardized testing still looms large for students and faculty. Holland said he would like to see it handled differently, but he and staff will continue to work within the system and do what’s best for students.
Westwood received a B on its most recent Ohio Report Card for performance index in state testing, which measures how many students passed the tests, and an A for indicators met, which measures overall scores against state standards.
“The focus should always be on the kids and not the tests or data,” he said. “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to change the testing. It’s a hand-me-down from the state. The difficulty for us is (that) someone creates a test that makes sense to them. If you give that test to a child, are they always going to understand it?”
Holland said teachers will continue to focus on the needs of individual students while also preparing them for the state mandates.
“Part of our struggle is we have to teach kids how to take this test, which to me is a waste of time,” he said. “They should be learning about history and about the facts. It is what it is and we have to deal with it. I ask the teachers to focus on their curriculum and make the kids into good readers. Teach them the math, then we’ll try to apply that to the tests. Some kids are good at testing and some can lock up because of fear and anxiety.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Principal Paul Holland is entering his second year at Westwood Elementary. He would like to see his students read more outside of school and changes in how state testing is handled.