HED:Tupelo middle, high school principals tout plans for 1997-98

By Monique Harrison

Daily Journal

Tupelo seventh-graders who score below the 80th percentile on reading-related portions of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills may be required to take a remedial reading class next year, Tupelo Middle School Principal Sue Shaw Smith said Tuesday.

"Our biggest concern at this point is in the area of reading," Smith said. "We know that students who have difficulty reading have difficulty in other subjects. We want to begin giving them opportunities to catch up."

If the program is approved by the Tupelo School Board, four reading teachers would be hired for the seventh grade.

At the eighth-grade level, students with weak reading skills would receive additional reading assistance in their English classes, Smith said.

Smith said she would also like to see the school offer tutorial services during school hours instead of after school.

"Right now, some of the parents don't have a way to pick their children up," she said during a regular report to the board. "Some children who really need the help can't get it."

Smith said she would also like to see additional classes offered for advanced students. Those classes would likely cover all basic subject areas.

If there is sufficient interest, a "zero period" may also be implemented the 50 minutes before school starts, Smith said. The class period would be used to offer students the opportunity to participate in student council and possibly gifted classes.

Tupelo High School implemented the "zero period" concept last fall and offers one senior-level English class before school.

Next year, that program is set to be expanded, with as many as five classes being offered. Those classes are expected to all be required courses in areas such as English, math, science and social studies, principal John "Mac" Curlee III said.

Curlee also said he wants to see an "eighth period" adopted from 3:10 to 4 p.m., after school has been dismissed.

"Obviously, these classes would appeal only to certain students," Curlee said. "Students who are already involved in after-school activities would not be able to participate."

Teachers who taught after school hours would be allowed to start their day during second period, Curlee said.

Curlee also said he plans to launch a program that would allow mathematically inclined ninth-graders to get a double dose of math.

Under the plan, students would be allowed to take two back-to-back periods of math for one year. The first semester would focus on geometry in the fall and Algebra II in the spring.

The program would only be open to students who had high math test scores and who had taken Algebra I in eighth grade. Students participating in the program would then have time to take more upper-level math and science classes before taking college entrance exams their junior year.

Under a similar scheduling system, students who have failed a year of English would be allowed to take two periods of English, enabling a student to complete two years of English coursework in one year.

Curlee said the program could prevent students from dropping out of school.

"We have students who are two years behind," he said. "They are taking English I and don't see any hope of catching up and graduating with their classmates. That's when we usually lose them."

Curlee said plans are also being made to include a compensatory reading class at the school. The class would be for poor readers and would use some of the techniques used in adult literacy programs. Students would receive a half-credit for the elective course.

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